Abbas Kiarostami on Trees, Poetry and Text Messages

For the past four years, Abbas Kiarostami has stalked the grounds of Tehran’s Sadabad Palace, taking photos of trees and crows. Now he’s showing the results in Dubai. And talking quite a bit about trees to The National newspaper:

“Art is like the trees – it is not there with a goal. The tree is not there to serve people. The tree doesn’t know that its fruits have vitamins, or that its blossom has a scent; its condition of growing is not a choice. Real artists are like those trees: they don’t know what will come out of their production. Therefore,” he says with a slight smile, “I am taking pictures of real artists.”

Kiarostami’s pensees would make for quite the Twitter feed, except that the director of Ta’m e guilass/A Taste of Cherrydoesn’t know when to quit. “From my very first photos when I first picked up a camera, I realised that trees had more significance for me than human beings,” he says. Notes the ink-stained wretch, “One gets the sense that Kiarostami hesitates to constrict his subjects with words much in the way he disdains bounding nature.”

His love of trees stems from his grandmother, who used to drive the young Abbas around and point out specimens that interested to her. At the time, he thought, “So what about it? It’s a tree.” Which probably made his grandmother wonder where this one came from. He since has developed very definite ideas about them. Kiarostami shares that he does not grow trees himself, as this would disrespect their autonomy.

There’s also talk of his 2002 book Walking With the Wind, which collects his marginalia. The book has gone into two printings, leaving the 68-year-old to chuckle, “At last I am a bestseller.” Among his current projects is editing the work of Rumi, Saadi and Hafez into text message-sized bites for the SMS generation.

Kiarostami screened his latest film Shirin at the 2008 Venice Film Festival. He is currently working on Copie conforme/Certified Copy with Juliette Binoche. Set in Tuscany, the film is about the May-December relationship between an English writer and a French woman.


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