Kiarostami: The man who made me believe in ideas

It struck me – the same feeling you get when a small piece of glass is pulled out from your toe – a realisation.

Rahul Aijaz July 06, 2016
A few years ago, during my screenwriting course, I was asked to watch Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Taste of Cherry’. Never having seen an Iranian film before, I went in with no expectations. It was only when it ended that it happened. It struck me – the same feeling you get when a small piece of glass is pulled out from your toe – a realisation.

I wondered, isn’t that what a film or any work of art should do?

Most filmmakers can’t achieve with a billion dollars what Kiarostami achieved with a few actors, a vehicle and a vast open Iranian landscape. It proved to me, a film student back then, what one could achieve with a strong idea. All you need is a camera and an idea that could hold your narrative together.

The film proved to be a fusion of awkward silences and uncomfortable conversations – with me left to decide which were more uneasy as a viewer. It is a neorealist depiction of a man’s journey around an Iranian suburb as he attempts to convince someone to bury him. The character lies in his grave, waiting to be buried, as the screen fades to black and we hear the storm coming. Not much is revealed about him after as when the visuals return, we see Kiarostami and his crew smoking and laughing in the sunlight. As Kiarostami lit a cigarette, I could feel the smoke on my face, as if he were saying,
“Wake up, this is just a film!”

Taste of Cherry is perhaps the truest manifestation of the idea of existentialism on screen. And while it gave me an existential crisis for some time to come, when I rose above it, I was a man who believed in ideas – one that can pierce like broken glass and unearth your creative potential. So today, a day after his death, all I wish was for one chance to say, “Thank you, Abbas Kiarostami,” for helping me become the man I am today. While there are many reasons you have left behind, in the form of your films, for us to remember you by, I will remember you most for the unwavering determination you had, despite all the odds stacked against you, and for the expert skill with which you surreptitiously crept into the deepest conscience of everyone curious enough to learn about you.

Rest in peace, Sir.
Rahul Aijaz The author is a film critic, wrestling and culture journalist, and a photographer. Currently, a Life&style reporter at the Express Tribune, he has previously served as the Deputy Editor at Asia Journalists Associations news outlets, in Seoul, Korea. He tweets at @RaulAjz (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Khalid Rafi | 6 years ago | Reply Kiarostami was a master who redefined cinema for over 30 years. Taste of Cherry may perhaps be his most powerful work, but I think his entire body of work was full of profound ideas and even profound observations of life itself. From the struggle of gaining acceptance in Close-Up to the thought-provoking allegory of marriage in Certified Copy to the existentialism, you mentioned, of Taste Of Cherry, it's all just, so incredible. Not to forget, The Wind Will Carry Us and Like Someone in Love, which are also excellent films. He will truly be missed. R.I.P
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