Kunstnere fra andre kulturer trenger å komme til Vesten for støtte, anerkjennelse og økonomisk gjennombrudd. Men tenker vi over hvor heldige vi er, hvilken gave det er å motta det ypperste fra andre kulturer, dvs. kontemporær kunst, ikke kulturarven? Den iranske filmskaperen Abbas Kiarostami er en slik kunstner.

Jean-Luc Godard har sagt at filmhistorien begynner med DW Griffith og slutter med Kiarostami. Han mener visst ikke det lenger, men det er av underordnet betydninng. Kiarostami var i British Film Academy for å motta et arbeidsstipend. Her snakket han om hvordan han arbeider, med amatører, vanlige mennesker, og det krever helt egne metoder. Han har feks. ikke noe manus.

AK: My films have been progressing towards a certain kind of minimalism, even though it was never intended. Elements which can be eliminated have been eliminated. This was pointed out to me by somebody who referred to the paintings of Rembrandt and his use of light: some elements are highlighted while others are obscured or even pushed back into the dark. And it’s something that we do – we bring out elements that we want to emphasise. I’m not claiming or denying that I have done such a thing but I do believe in [Robert] Bresson’s method of creation through omission, not through addition.
AK: I don’t have very complete scripts for my films. I have a general outline and a character in my mind, and I make no notes until I find the character who’s in my mind in reality. When I find the character, I try to spend time with them and get to know them very well. Therefore my notes are not from the character that I had in my mind before, but are instead based on the people I’ve met in real life. It’s a long process, it may take six months. I only make notes, I don’t write dialogues in full. And the notes are very much based on my knowledge of that person. Therefore when we start shooting I don’t have rehearsals with them at all. So, rather than pulling them towards myself, I travel closer to them; it’s very much closer to the real person than anything I try to create. So I give them something but I also take from them.

There’s a Rumi poem that helps to explains this – it goes something like this: You are like the ball subject to my polo stick; I set you in motion, but once you’re off and running, I am the one in pursuit. Therefore, when you see the end result, it’s difficult to see who’s the director, me or them. Ultimately, everything belongs to the actors – we just manage the situation. This kind of directing, I think, is very similar to being a football coach. You prepare your players and place them in the right places, but once the game is on, there’s nothing much you can do – you can smoke a cigarette or get nervous, but you can’t do much. While shooting Ten I was sitting in the backseat, but I didn’t interfere. Sometimes, I was following in another car, so I was not even present on the «set», because I thought they would work better in my absence. Directors don’t always create, they can also destroy with too many demands. Using non-actors has its own rules and really requires that you allow them to do their own thing.

GA: Do you think you prefer this method because of the way you started out at Kanoon [Iran’s Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults], working very often with children, where you probably had to work that way?

AK: This is very much rooted in that period of my life. If I hadn’t stated with children I would never have arrived at this style. Children are very strong and independent characters and can come up with more interesting things than Marlon Brando, and it’s sometimes very difficult to direct or order them to do something. When I met Akira Kurosawa in Japan, one question he asked me was, «How did you actually make the children act the way they do? I do have children in my films but I find that I reduce and reduce their presence until I have to get rid of them because there’s no way that I can direct them.» My own thought is that one is very grand, like an emperor on a horse, and it’s very hard for a child to relate to that. In order to be able to cooperate with a child, you have to come down to below their level in order to communicate with them. Actors are also like children.


GA: Your cinema seems to be a cinema of questions – you don’t offer answers, you make us think about questions all the time, and in fact your photography is like that, and so are your poems.

AK: I’m only going to repeat myself here. Nothing of what I’ve done started from an intention as such. I never intended to write poems, nor to be a photographer, nor to be a film-maker. I just took many, many pictures and I would put them in an album, and then some years later I decided to show them and suddenly I was called a photographer. Same thing with my poetry. They’re notes that I’d written in a book and it may be considered poetry. And I would remind you that if you visit the V&A, you can see my photography there.

GA: Why did you take so long to let us see your photography, or indeed to read your poems? You’ve been doing both for a very long time but it’s only been in the last five or six years that we’ve been able to see that work.

AK: As I said, I never thought that they were being produced to be shown. They were really just an excuse for me to spend time in nature.

Abbas Kiarostami