‘Life as Art’: BAMPFA series explores authenticity, spirit in films of Abbas Kiarostami

Illustration of Abbas Kiarostami
Alexander Hong/Senior Staff

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As the modern film industry seems to be continually embroiled in debates on franchising, intellectual property and originality, the notion of wholly inventive, inspired film narratives may seem almost absurd to avid cinema lovers and casual moviegoers alike. In an era where onscreen adventures continue to take on massive — even otherworldly — scales, it’s easy to forget that our most potent, compelling stories often come from the smallest moments in everyday life.

Iranian film director, screenwriter and producer Abbas Kiarostami embraced the idea that the reality of others can often serve as some of the most powerful, impactful material for our consumption. In a career spanning more than 40 years and over 40 films, Kiarostami created an artistic portfolio that encapsulates a variety of genres while consistently drawing from the human experience. Whether it be the immersive drama “Taste of Cherry” or the enlightening documentary “Homework,” Kiarostami’s work brought naturalist Iranian films to international audiences and redefined the power of representation in narrative entertainment.

The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s ongoing film series, “Abbas Kiarostami: Life as Art” highlights the many distinct corners of the legendary director’s contribution to global cinema.

— Anagha Komaragiri

‘Taste of Cherry’ celebrates smaller joys of life

Despite the darker premise of the film, “Taste of Cherry” surprisingly celebrates life and its little joys.

— Julie Lim

Kiarostami’s ‘The Colours’ is brief whimsical excellence

Early works of famed filmmakers during the beginning of their career are always interesting to see. Although ‘The Colours’ is an educational video made for teaching young children about hues, the short film can also be seen as a portending testament to Kiarostami’s eye as a filmmaker.

— Julie Lim

‘Where is the Friend’s Home?’ showcases echoes of magical realism through normalcy, a child’s eyes   

Yet for all the simplicity of this premise, Abbas Kiarostami, in classic fashion, never allows the viewer to settle into a sense of complacent comfort.

— Ryan Tuozzolo

‘Homework’: Stay for its youth, question its filmmaker

But nothing says awkward and intrusive better than the 1990s. If there’s anything to note about “Homework,” it’s the conflict of not wanting to intrude on these children’s lives, but adoring their faces on screen as they appear in sweaters with fresh haircuts.

— Skylar De Paul

Cinema as reflection in ‘Through the Olive Trees’

A large portion of “Through the Olive Trees” is spent watching the magic of cinema unfold in the village. Between a crowded casting call and peeks at interactions between cast and crew while onset, the film allows viewers to feel involved in the creation of what they’re watching.

— Skylar De Paul

‘Close-Up’: A sensitive portrayal of identity, artistic expression

“Close-Up” is a breathtaking, often painful, observation of the distinction between “art as passion” and “art as a career.”

— Anagha Komaragiri

BAMPFA will be screening “Abbas Kiarostami: Life as Art” until Dec. 21.