Abbas Kiarostami, Iranian director and screenwriter, will head the Cinefondation and Short Film Jury at the Cannes Film Festival that begins on May 14.
Kiarostami is a Cannes regular, whose movies vied for the Festival’s most prestigious Palm d’Or not once or twice but five times. And in 1997, he won the honour with his Taste of Cherry. It is a starkly minimalist and horribly morbid film about an Iranian man who drives through Tehran trying to find a volunteer for an unusual task. The man is about to commit suicide and wants someone to bury him. Of course for a handsome sum of money.
Kiarostami never reveals why the man wants to kill himself. The novelty of the subject and the minimalism won the hearts of the jury that year.
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Though compared to Satyajit Ray, Vittorio de Sica and Eric Rohmer, Kiarostami has a style that is uniquely different from these legends. And, there is nothing called compromise in Kiarostami’s dictionary. In 1970, when he was filming The Bread and Alley, he had a major difference with his cinematographer on how to shoot a scene involving a boy and a dog. Kiarostami’s word prevailed in the end, though that one scene took 40 days!
Kiarostami rose to international fame with Where is the Friend’s Home (1987) and went on to present five movies in competition at Cannes: Through the Olive Trees (1994); Taste of Cherry (1997); Ten (2002); Certified Copy (2010); and Like Someone in Love (2012).
He stepped outside his native Iran for the first time when he shot Certified Copy in 2010. He chose French actress Juliette Binoche and the gorgeous Tuscany in Italy to tell us the story of a British writer and a French antiques dealer whose relationship undergoes an odd transformation in the course of a single day. Binoche won the Best Actress Palm.
Like Someone in Love is set in Tokyo, and is a tense account of a college student who moonlights as a prostitute and runs into an emotional storm when she and her client accidentally meet her jealous boyfriend.
Kiarostami has been involved with the Cinéfondation since its creation in 1998, when he agreed to be a patron of the project along with American director Martin Scorsese.
The 2014 Cinéfondation and Short Films Jury will also include directors Noémie Lvovsky (France), Daniela Thomas (Brazil), Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad), and Joachim Trier (Norway).
The jury will give away three prizes to movies submitted by students from film schools around the world, and these works will be presented in the Cinefondation section.
Apart from these, the jury will choose a short movie for the Short Film Palm d’Or from a selection outside the student’s basket.
The list of movies will be announced later.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 23 years, and will write on it again this May.)