It was not the largest of the press conferences, but the man chairing it is widely regarded as one the living masters of Asian Film, Abbas Kiarostami. He was the president of jury for both Cinefondation and short film contests. There were many areas at Cannes for Asians to be proud about and Abbas being honoured with the presidency of the jury of two competitions was something to be really proud about. An active filmmaker since 1970, Kiarostami has been involved in over forty films, including shorts and documentaries. Kiarostami attained critical acclaim for directing Taste of Cherry (1997) which was awarded Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, and The Wind Will Carry Us (1999). He is also a poet, photographer, painter, illustrator, and graphic designer. He is part of a generation of filmmakers in the Iranian New Wave, a Persian cinema movement that started in the late 1960s. Kiarostami has a reputation for using child protagonists, for documentary-style narrative films, for stories that take place in rural villages, and for conversations that unfold inside cars, using stationary mounted cameras. He is also known for his use of contemporary Iranian poetry in the dialogue, titles, and themes of his films. His conference was full of short film makers and cinefondation contestants. And there were few oddball journalists like me who sneaked into his press conference! Here is an excerpt of his talks at the conference.
LEARNING TO MAKE FILMS
I was lucky not to study cinema. I didn't go to any film school, I never went to watch a film set, everything came spontaneously and very intuitively. This, of course means many mistakes and lack of knowledge but at least it has this merit of being spontaneous and mine.
The financial matter for short film makers is important. It depends on your relationship with cinema. If you think of it as an industry and profession, then of course you must take into consideration in means of capital and producers and also the taste of the audiences and how to please them.
So, this is a scoop. I am going to tell you the first part of my next film. It is image of a computer screen, and on it is a sentence. The sentence is, “I must be honest with you, the first thing that I noticed were your hands, it was in the supermarket. You were picking up a tomato sauce and I noticed your hand. So, I went around and saw you in the alley of the supermarket – they were beautiful hands”.
ROLE ON THE FILM SET
I feel that my role on the set is very close to the rule of a football coach. You just sit and watch. Everything you have to do is beforehand. You have plenty of time to choose your strategy before shooting and have deeper knowledge of your players to know exactly who you are going to use for the attack or defense. But once the match starts, in my case, when the shooting starts, you intervening in a shooting is as if the coach wants to stand and start changing plans, and people and that doesn't make sense. You have to do everything beforehand. Then, all you can do is sit on a bench, enjoy or be nervous or curse or have a smoke – it is too late for you to intervene. That is all how it is, all the work has to be done before the shooting starts. If you get to see in one of my shooting sets, you will find me the idlest person because I have done my work beforehand. The active phase for me is location scouting, the casting and working with the actors. Once the shooting starts, I am off.
Transcribed by Zia Nazmul Islam