An Interview With Abbas Kiarostami and Aydin Aghdashloo

Talking About Poetry, Life, Death, Art and Politics

by Najmeh Khalili Mahani Volume 21 Issue 7 / July 2017 46 minutes (11423 words)

Source: Shargh News

NOTE: This interview was originally published in Persian in the Iranian newspaper Shargh. Najmeh Khalili-Mahani did not succeed in contacting the Shargh newspaper directly, to seek permission for this translation.

Everything started in the Jam High School, in Gholhak [a suburb of North Tehran]. Sixty years ago, they were both 13; one exuberant and combative; the other one quiet, shy and dreamy. They once even fought each other. In all these 60 years, they have been close but apart. Many imagined that they did not like each other, but their meeting in 2013 turned a new page. On a gray afternoon, Kiarostami rang Aghdashloo’s bell to make a memorable visit. Next to bitter-sweet memories of youth, they talked about their world views, and about their mutual influence on one another. The text below is not all that happened in that visit. This conversation is a small window to the world of two artists, a return to the past and a perusing of the time; an unusual conversation that opens the hidden corners of their lives for the first time, for their fans.

Learn about Aydin Aghdashloo

Shargh: Let’s starts from high school; it seems there were other celebrities who attended the Jam High School?

Kiarostami: Those who are still alive are less than a handful.

Aghdashloo: One of them was Bahman Farzaneh, the translator of “Hundred Years of Solitude” who passed away in February. I was very sad. I wrote a eulogy about him which was published on a website. He was a peculiar man. The first time that he invited me to his house, I noticed that he had arranged black and white and blue river rocks on every window. It was the first time that I realized even little pebbles can be beautiful.

Kiarostami: When was that?

Aghdashloo: Around grade 9.

Kiarostami: He never married.

Aghdashloo: No.

Kiarostami: I saw him once in Rome, he was very frail.

Aghdashloo: He made a mark with the translation of Hundred Years of Solitude.

Kiarostami: He has another book called Dear Michelle which was a collection of letters; and his translation of it was great. The Hundred Years of Solitude had a different prose, but those letters were translated as if you were reading the same letters and not the book.

Shargh: Morteza Momayez also from your era, did you have friendly relations with him?

Kiarostami: Yes, but I was not in Iran when he passed away. When I came back I heard that he had passed. Before I left, he asked me: “when are you going to Japan?” I told him that I was not going to. He was too ill to understand my answer, and said “wait so we go together, I have things that I cannot leave to someone else.” His wife and someone else who were there looked at each other, indicating that he doesn’t get it.

Aghdashloo: He knew but he fooled himself.

Kiarostami: I have a cute story about [Ali] Hatami too.

Aghdashloo: I saw him in his last days.

Kiarostami: A week before (his passing) he told me that when returning from Dr Nabati’s office —which I guess must have been in a narrow brick-building— he saw Bahram ReyPoor, who put his head on Ali’s shoulder and started lamenting: “what a misfortune …”. But I suspect [Ali] meant himself, because Ali always had a religious streak. It’s life anyways.

Aghdashloo: Death is a complex and sensitive issue; that one should die with dignity and not lament and not hang from this or that to seek a savior.

Kiarostami: I don’t think this will happen to us; not because we are wise, but because we are childish. Momayez didn’t believe his age and illness and therefore didn’t believe he was going to die. Do kids accept illness and age? I don’t think we are in danger of falling on our knees. But we are not mortals; death is for neighbors! [Sarcasm]

Aghdashloo: Yes, cancer hits others.

Kiarostami Farhadian used to say: “We have witnessed so many die and we have not, so we will not.”

Aghdashloo: Mehdireza Gholizadeh recounted when Maestro Hossein Behzad was ill and they brought a doctor to his bed, he grabbed the doctor’s sleeve and told him: “Dr, don’t let me die, I am precious.”

Kiarostami: He probably had heard it from others that death is for others, you are too precious to die!

Aghdashluoo: No, he himself —of course justifiably— thought he was important.

Shargh: But indeed, some are too precious to die …

Aghdashloo: This is the idea of people who want to take advantage of you. You have to see what the person feels himself. Maybe he is bored or has no motivation anymore.

Kiarostami: Be honest, have you ever hit that spot?

Aghdashloo: Never.

Kiarostami: I think this happens when one doesn’t have any unfinished business. For us, who will have unfinished business to the end of our lives, if we are taken before we are done would be a bit unpleasant.

Aghdashloo: My only concern is to die in this basement, because I think they will have to carry my coffin vertically through these narrow corridors, and I think that will kill them!! (laughter) I had received an email, about someone asking Ahmad Reza Ahmadi who he wished to be carrying his coffin; and [Ahmadreza] had said Aydin and Kimiai. Someone should tell him “Dear, do you think we are strong enough to move you?” (laughter)

Kiarostami: You know, you can leave a will to not carry you vertically, but bury you vertically.

Aghdashloo: Have you heard the story of Harun al Rashid? They say that when they wanted to bury him, the earth didn’t accept his body and therefore they buried him vertically. I am not Harun al Rashid.

Kiarostami: I have heard that if you donate your house to the public, you can be buried in it. You can give your house to the government.

Aghdashloo: This doesn’t belong to me.

Kiarostami: It doesn’t matter, you ask to be buried here, the government will confiscate it from the dude!

Aghdashloo: The “dude” is Takin, my son! They have to talk to him because this underground belongs to him! (Laughter) I think I have to forget about the situation after my death because the crowds who will come here will destroy everything.

Kiarostami: For instance if you want to visit Kafka’s house, you have to look at things from a distance.

Aghdashloo: Yes, you can’t fan yourself with Kafka’s fan. [pun]

Kiarostami: We can do something, put a mirror to reflect the image of the interior without them coming in.

Aghdashloo: Like a submarine periscope. But the best thing is if you make a film of me.

Kiarostami: Actually I asked Bahman Kiarostami “why don’t you make a movie about Aydin?”

Aghdashloo: Kamran Shirdel has offered this to me too.

Kiarostami: Bahman is good in making timeless films. He is making a documentary about Monir Farmanfarmayan doesn’t have a time period. When I asked him why he doesn’t make a film about Aydin Aghdashlu, he said that he is scared of Aghdashlu. I told him, you didn’t fear Monir, you fear Aydin?

Aghdashloo: As Kermanshahi’s say, “no shame in fearing lions!” (laughter)

Kiarostami: This is from before Monir’s period. He has now spent some time with her. She is very cranky. What is good about Aydin is that any image of him one captures will be beautiful. Many people, when they see themselves in a film, they ask to be cut. You tell them “you have said the best things here!” and they say, “The hell with best words, my best picture is not here.” What is special about Aydin is that one wouldn’t have to cut because of bad pictures.

Aghdashloo: I had a TV show 40 years ago and I imagined I was good looking. In one of the episodes I had to talk about a painting; so I turned my back to the camera to point to the picture. When I next saw the film in Ampex, I realized that I was balding, and it was visible.

Kiarostami: That’s the period that you still cared [about your looks].

Aghdashloo: Yes and I asked them to cut that image!

Kiarostami: But now you ask for a four-angle take!

Ahjdashloo: Now I say, take whatever you want, God bless you! About the documentary, I wanted to tell Shirdel “later” but then I thought, what am I thinking? One has to be too optimistic to tell his friend “I will see you on Wednesday afternoon!” Which Wednesday? You might drop dead on Tuesday! What hope does it take to make an appointment for Wednesday afternoon!

Kiarostami: The foreign contracts [they offer me] are for the next few years. In 2009 they told me that they will screen my work in 2014. I smiled, and liked the idea that they have counted on me [until then]! Of course, I didn’t agree and told them: “who knows who lives and who dies in five years.” But if I had accepted, it would have been around this time. The good thing is that [if you are dead], you won’t be there to cancel and to come up with excuses.

Shargh: One of the strange aspects of your friendship is that although you have been school and university classmates, you have never been close enough to be hanging out together.

Kiarostami: I really wished to find an opportunity to come and check on Aydin, I just calculated and realized that I would be coming here again after 60 years.

Aghdashloo: In those days I lived in my grandmother’s house.

Kiarostami: When we entered the house, your house had a window to the alley and was the first room on the right.

Aghdashloo: In Ferdows Alley

Kiarostami: I don’t remember why Aydin invited me to his house. Because he had no regards for me. But I remember I went to their house. Why? Either I am mistaken that I went to his house, or that he was not kind to me.

Aghdashloo: You imagine!

Kiarostami: Since my visual memory has worked well, then he must have been kind to me.

Shargh: Your old friend say that Kiarostami’s introversion made him mysterious. For this reason, everyone wanted to get close to him but they were also scared …

Kiarostami: The memory of all those who remember me is formed by the few articles that Aydin has written about me. Mohandes Parviz Sahabi was very exuberant and noisy in university and played the bugle. He had straight hair and was the cheerleader of volleyball games, so he may not have seen me. I mean no one saw me in the University and the image they present of me is based on what Aydin has written. They may say “we know you”! But really, none of them did.

Shargh: After all these years, you still have that mysterious calmness.

Kiarostami: Mysteriousness is because of the glasses; and my quietness in those days was for a reason, but currently, it is not a feature. Now, my quietness is habitual; it is not because I don’t want to be flamboyant. I just cannot be. In those days, I wanted to be flamboyant and could not. Today, I want to be but I cannot.

Aghdashloo: Abbas is a very calm and meticulous person. Many years ago I wrote that in school we saw him observe us and events, without intervening. How did we know that he takes a film of everything and keeps them in his mind’s archive? An example is the film Mossafer [The Traveler, 1974] in which a boy has tied a napkin around his head, apparently for a toothache. Well that boy was me!

Shargh: How much of your childhood memories are in your films?

Kiarostami: I think whatever I make relates to that time. Since 30 years ago onward, I don’t have anything to make. As if my hard disc is full and I have not been able to take out even 10% of it. Therefore I cannot register any new events! Mossafer is a film about a naughty boy who doesn’t go to school. In those days, Aydin had wrapped his jaws in a napkin, like a rabbit; and he pretended to have a toothache. And our teacher would send him to sit down [instead of asking questions]. I got this idea from Aydin, to occasionally pretend to a toothache by wrapping the jaw. I am not sure if I said this or Aydin said it, that “a child who lies has the evidence in his pocket”, because a professional liar needs more evidence than just word-play. We had a friend who used to rub his hands in the dirt, when he came home late, and told his wife that he had to change the flat tire. Sometimes he even deflated the tire in front of the house! Aydin was like that too. Naturally, much of those days are in my films. Because I didn’t have close friends, I just stood there and had nothing but to watch. And when you stand and watch, your brain is filling with a bunch of information to which you will accidentally find a window to in your future filmmaking career.

Aghdashloo: Abbas was a classy man from the start. I never saw him swear, or say cheap things. Maybe he did but I don’t remember!

Kiarostami; I am sure I have.

Aghdashloo: No, the naughty ones were people like Kamal Mir Taheri, Reza Rajayee, Ali Golestaneh and I. But you were the classiest one. I am serious. We never heard a bad word from your mouth. In those days that swearing was like chewing candy, and we conveyed every sentence with a swear word at the beginning, middle and the end of a sentence, I don’t recall him having had sworn at anyone.

Kiarostami: If necessary, I do swear. I am sure it was not necessary. We had a serious fight, but I don’t think we swore. We beat each other in silence.

Shargh: Over what?

Kiarostami: I was coming from an elementary school called “Bahram” which was called “Bahram University” because it was odd. In those days, we lived in Ekhtiyariyeh, which was deserted and had no school. People had built houses and raised children there. A year before I reached school age, they build a school. My classmate was a brick-worker who was 17, and I was 6! (laughter) because registration was not based on age. After the War [WWII, 1946], the government had no money for building schools. A philanthropist who had a natural cool-house in a big building had donated it to serve as a school which could register anyone he wanted. In fact, he was the lord and we were the ice-breaking workers, so we ran the school (laughter). We had fun, sat on island-like chunks of ice and when they wanted to fill the cooler with water, we jumped down and sled on ice.

Aghdashloo: Where was the Cowhouse school?

Kiarostami: Lower Gholhak.

Aghdashloo: What was its real name?

Kiarostami: That region was known as the “Cowhouse” quarter and it had so many bad students that they decided to keep the name on the school as well!

Shargh: Were you not classmates in these years?

Aghdashloo: No we were not together in “Bahram University!”, I was elsewhere.

Kiarostami: I was there till grade 6 and was supposed to spend grade 7 there as well.

Shargh: Did you study well?

Kiarostami: Well given the circumstances, it is not less than a miracle that I learned alphabet there (laughter). Now imagine someone like me coming from a school like that to suddenly enter the “Jam High School” in Gholhak. I really panicked. A part of my introversion and solitude was the consequence of this fear (laughter). I stood by the wall and watched how dissimilar these kids were to the previous classmates. Aydin was one of the students and caught my attention in the first two days. After I obtained my “thesis” From “Bahram University!” [sarcasm], I got a bursary and went to Jam High School for continuing education! Because Bahram school didn’t have higher than grade 7! In Jam High School, I was confronted with a semi upper-class which had no resemblance to ours; many [students] came to school with private drivers.

Aghdashloo: Like Majid Varasteh. He was so fashionable and we were so jealous.

Kiarostami: I remember Jahansooz Bahrami had drawn a deer and had hung in the Principal’s office. I used to look at this painting from behind the glass door. We all painted because it was the cheapest medium for all. One day that Aydin was drawing, I sneaked up to look over his shoulder but he hid his drawing frowning at me.

Shargh: Why?

Aghdashloo: Why should he have seen it? I didn’t want him to copy!

Kiarostami: I don’t remember how long it took to forget this harsh vicious treatment of Aydin! I remember we didn’t say hi for a long time. Of course, I cannot recall whom I did say hi to! Aydin had his own gang and I had none.

Aghdashloo: But Kamal Mirtahery was with you.

Kiarostami: No, he had confiscated my belt, and I had to befriend him in order to take my belt back!

Shargh: Did you paint or were you disillusioned?

Kiarostami. No, I painted. Adin caught polio in grade 8 and became paralyzed.

Aghdashloo: And didn’t go to school for one year. My hands and feet were paralyzed. One day I woke up and realized that I couldn’t walk.

Kiarostami: Aydin didn’t come to school for a year, and I, out of solidarity (and not because of being weak!) failed one grade! But when Aydin returned, he was not the same. He was entirely different; I don’t know if he agrees or not. There was another classmate in Aydin’s gang called Feyzollah Payami, he was a well-read kid and brought Aydin books. When Aydin returned, he was another person. Had lied down for a year and had read books.

Aghdashloo: For one year, I read day and night.

Kiarostami: I remember that I approached him once over books and asked him what books he had read. He gave me a list, which I still have. I remember one of those books was The Ministry of Fear [Graham Greene] and also books of Eugene O’Niell.

Aghdashloo: Bravo to this memory!

Kiarostami: As a matter of fact we were in touch from afar because Aydin was full of adventures. When he returned to school, his character had changed a bit, and he was more informed; but he was still combative and pranking. I told him to not do physical pranks on me! One day, after his physical pranks we decided to go and fight in the middle of the class. We didn’t have any grudges but it was necessary for us to wrestle it out. I went to the class and put the benches behind the door and we beat each other well. Other kids were watching us from the school yard. I don’t remember who beat whom.

Aghdashloo: Makes no difference.

Kiarostami: We beat each other until we got tired, and then we put the benches out and left the classroom. After that, our relationship was a bit more balanced. I think the era of books is after our fight.

Shargh: In those days that Aghdashlu wasn’t coming to school, didn’t you check on him?

Kiarostami: I knew the reason.

Aghdashloo: Those kinds of cares and courtesies didn’t mean much in those days.

Shargh: Did you miss school?

Aghdashloo: Not really, I was having a great time not going to school, because I read many books, even The Divine Comedy by Dante. I couldn’t do anything else, because my hands and feet didn’t work. I borrowed books for a penny a night, and cheap.

Shargh: When did you become close?

Aghdashloo: Years passed until I discovered Abbas, because those were formative years, and in my view Abbas was one of the smartest people whom I discovered late. That he could take a distance and look, I discovered later. I am still saying that one of the definitions of intellectualism is to be able to take a distance and to look at oneself and at everything else from outside. Abbas had this quality to distance himself since childhood, and after he started in the Fine Arts Faculty, any of us who had common memories were fascinated by his work. Abbas painted very personal and unique paintings while the faculty was more of a sausage factory, wishing all of us to be uniform. Everyone tried cubism! And if someone was different, he was immediately made fun of. When I saw his painting later, I loved them. Abbas entered the university a year after me. Our tradition was to gang up on new arrivals and paint them. Sometimes things got violent because the new students put on their best clothes on the first day. I was very happy when I saw Abbas’ name in the list of the accepted.

Shargh: You didn’t have any contact in between?

Aghdashloo: We did, but Abbas had other jobs that kept him out of Tehran at times and we were not close.

Kiarostami: We did everything. I remember once I saw Aydin in Gholhak and introduced him to a friend. Aydin showed me his finger. He had painted so much that his index finger was callused. My friend was so impressed by Aydin that asked, for years, about him. This wasn’t a choice, but a need to run from one place to next in order to earn a living.

Shargh: Did you work too?

Aghdashloo: Before entering university, I painted watercolor postcards in Naderi Passage, for Armenian painters who sold them to tourists. I was very happy to see Abbas in the university.

Kiarostami: I remember you had underlined my name on the list and had written “Congratulations! Aydin.”

Aghdashloo: (laughter) Yes, Abbas knew what plan we had, as soon as he saw me running to him, he said “Don’t mess with me” (of course he used another word which I cannot use here).

Kiarostami: Aydin was even more naughty in the university than in high school. God forbid if he saw you with a girl. He then made your life miserable. He would ask questions that no one could answer. He ambushed me in a couple of such situations (laughter).

Aghdashloo: One of our friends by the name of Mr Mohtaj had written our memoirs in a handwritten book. I have it in my bookcase. Mohtaj had a great memory. When I am depressed, I read this book and roll in laughter. Anyways, when I was running toward Abbas, I stopped like the bird in the road runner cartoon, because he used that swear word, this was clearly serious.

Kiarostami: Did you know Aydin used to write poetry?

Shargh: I knew he likes poetry, didn’t know he wrote poetry too …

Aghdashloo: Yes I wrote poetry in high school.

Kiarostami: And the presence of your poetry booklet in my house proves that our relationship was not so bad. He water-colored little paintings in the booklet and wrote nice poems, which are still worth reading.

Shargh: Do you remember any of those poems?

Kiarostami: I know many of them by heart.

Aghdashloo: Yes, I remember. My booklet is still with Abbas.

Shargh: Why did you give it to Abbas?

Aghdashloo: To safekeep it.

Kiarostami: No, Aydin knew that I liked poetry and had a good memory. I remember in grade 10, he recited an English composition and although my English was not so good, I listened so well that I knew what the subject was and memorized it all.

Shargh: This is amazing.

Kiarostami: Yes, like a tape recorder. I remember Mr Agah, asked Aydin “what do you want to become?” and he didn’t answer. Mr Agah told him: “Don’t become a Dr or an Engineer!” It was a beautiful composition. Do you remember?

Aghdashloo: Yes of course the approval of Mr Agah was a unique honor, because he didn’t give a damn about us and whatever you said his answer was “sit down calf!”

Kiarostami: In fact he graded the topic and the prose.

Shargh: What was the topic?

Kiarostami: I don’t know what woman had crossed Aydin at the age of 14, but the topic was about a man and a woman meeting.

Aghdashloo: No one, it was all imagination.

Kiarostami: It was about someone who had spent a night with a foreign woman, listening to Nat King Cole with that woman, and the second time that he visited that place and had not found the woman, the “At the End [of A Rainbow]” song had played in his head.

Aghdashloo: I was so audacious to read it in front of all school mischiefs.

Kiarostami: He got all of us emotional. Mr Agah [teacher], who called everyone a cow, asked Aydin what he wanted to become in the future. He didn’t tell him what to become or not to become. Aydin, I don’t know how you view poetry, but there are periods in life that you like things but then put them aside. In my case, I used to love the romantic poetry of Dr Hamidi Shirazi, and I had memorized his book of poems. That period passed but when I later recited one of his poems jokingly, I realized it was sentimental, but not bad.

Aghdashloo: He had a poem about a girl he loved, who had married someone else. His poems were angry and full of insults.

Kiarostami: I remember this poem “I saw her, blinding me by carrying my menace’s baby, a little monster that will be born tomorrow, falling asleep on the lap of my moon-bodied beloved, burning me at each encounter”

Aghdashloo: I don’t like rage in the art, but this is a beautiful poem and showed how he had suffered.

Kiarostami: Because his was a lived rage. He had fallen in love with a Colonel’s daughter, but they had not allowed her to marry him. I was his fan at the age of 15! Because his book was expensive and I couldn’t afford it, I borrowed it from a friend who stole it from his brother but needed to return it the morning after so his brother wouldn’t notice. For this, I spent two-night hand-copying the book and memorizing it.

Aghdashloo: What a brilliant memory!

Kiarostami: Later, I was very angry, like people who get a tattoo and regret it, to have filled my memory’s hard-disc with this book which was not useful to me anywhere. In a trip to London, I was at my friend’s, Morteza Kakhi [poet]. He told me that he was going to visit a poet, Hamidi Shirazi, at the embassy. I told him that I didn’t know him (laughter) and uttered a few swear words. Morteza asked me to go and wait for him outside for ten minutes. I obliged and went to visit Dr Hamidi who was very frail and in bed. Kakhi whispered to him that “Kiarostami is your fan and knows your poems by heart, would you like him to recite one?” (laughter) He agreed, and I did recite a strange poem that jumped to my mind when I saw his condition: “I am tired, I am sick, I am wingless, awake till dawn, with the morning birds”. As I was reciting this, tears started falling on his face. When I looked at Morteza, I found he had turned to the wall and was silently sobbing like Nasser in Gheysar (1969, Kimiai). I was choking myself, and the poem was long. “I told you I will never see you again, but I did again and again/ In your two seductive eyes, I saw love again/ I saw your slender figure and beautiful face/. I was rose petals and between them I saw Shiraz”. When I said “Shiraz”, his tears fell harder and I realized that to have memorized the book was not in vain. It was destiny to have memorized the book to be able to read it in such a day.

Aghdashloo: And to deliver what you had safekept.

Kiarostami: Yes. When we left, Morteza said that his face was numb. I was the same, I was numb everywhere. It was the special moment of an animosity turning to friendship, delivering what was trusted to me. Dr Hamidi passed away there. Anyways, I was talking about Aydin’s poem. His “Rasht, my city” would still be a good poem today. It belongs to his age of 14. I remember some of it: “Rasht, my city, many years have passed/since I lived in you/ ran in your alleys/ opened my little hands under your cold rain/ the “time”, this old seductress, has distanced me from your cloud clad sky, your eerie crow songs, your clay roofs …” I have to find this poem, its end is really nice “Is it possible, possible to return to my city/ to press my chest against its grass, Is it possible, possible is it?” It’s a beautiful poem. No matter how far you go, it remains a good poem.

Aghdashloo: It is nostalgic …

Kiarostami: That he had nostalgia at the age of 14 is interesting. Like Parviz Davaei who had captured a photo of himself and Bahram Reypoor, with a donkey, and had written “in memory of those days”. But which days? Does age seven turn into nostalgia for age 12?

Aghdashloo: In those days, when we were all running after life, Abbas got his bachelor’s and we lost each other; but when he started making films in the Kanoon, we saw each other. When he was making the film “Yek Gozaresh” ]_The Report_, 1977] our friendship was renewed and we got close. When I saw that film later, it became an important one to me and it still is. I wrote about it, and I still believe that Gozaresh is one of his best films. It was referring to something that was the core of many issues at the time. It was about mediocre people who are happy with their insignificant joys, which don’t end no matter what bad happens. No bad event is bad-enough to end the fun. None of the bad events are so grave to end everything. Like getting pinched, which hurts, but doesn’t debilitate. In those days, we lived in an era where everything was supposed to turn to either catastrophe or miracle. In an age of bipolar ends, Gozaresh was a brilliant idea: people in those days had comfort and discomfort; were fortunate and unfortunate. Like the woman who killed herself but didn’t die; or the man who was suspended but would ultimately go back to work. So this was not about a finality. In fact, such a look onto the middle class did not exist in [films of] those days as most narratives used to be about lumpens or outcasts. The view of Gozaresh was particular and unsettling. It was then that I realized that the film’s vantage point was a product of an active observer of the surrounding world. It was only Abbas who could see the middle class lives like that. This particular vision appeared in his next films too.

Shargh: Other filmmakers did not replicate such process in those days …

Aghdashloo: Correct, it was not replicated. For example, there was Naser Taghvai’s Tranquility in Presence of Others which was very emotional and pointed. To have such a flat view of the lives of people who are subject to blowing, but non-fatal strikes, was brilliant. It was then that I began respecting Abbas’ work, and that still continues. We saw each other during the period when he worked for Kanoon.

Kiarostami: We saw each other occasionally. The beauty of Aydin’s presence in my life is that he impacted me when he had to.

Aghdashloo: It was not deliberate.

Kiarostami: I say all this for you to know where I come from. I don’t remember any of the friends of those days because they didn’t affect me, because if they had it would have been obvious by now. Although we were the same age, Aydin was different than a 14-yr old friend. I got the books I wanted to read from him, I followed his painting. The most important period of one’s life is teen years.

Shargh: Important books: Which book has had the most impact on you?

Kiarostami: This is not so important; but a book that I still like is John Steinbeck’s To a God Unknown, which affected me deeply. Nowadays, no book or film can have the impact of those days, and we have to use our treasure of information. But this book is in my memory and is present in my paintings and films. It’s the story of someone who goes to a vast desert and tries to cultivate it on his own, then a drought hits. He lives with his wife and his dog, and when the rain doesn’t come, he shoots himself. At the end of the book, the sounds of the gunfire and the thunder mix and rain washes his blood away. This was an extraordinary image to me. The atmosphere of his solitude is what affected me. A book that I read six months ago cannot have the same impact on me, and if someone moves my bookmark, I will reread it! Aydin was the only one who had that impact on my youth. He had the same character he has today in those days. I am not giving compliments, this is true and there is evidence for what I say. The books that Aydin gave me in those days have affected me in those days.

Shargh: What is the impact of painting in your work?

Kiarostami: I am working on a series of the Impressionists’ works.

Aghdashloo: So nice that you have come back to painting.

Kiarostami: I have many filmmaking workshop and I tell my students that if they don’t paint, or take photos, do they expect to come to cinema from literature? It’s a catastrophe if one enters cinema from narrative. You cannot make a film if you have not painted or taken photographs.

Aghdashloo: One of the main grounds for cinema is this [painting].

Kiarostami: Bahman [Kiarostami] doesn’t agree with me at all. I showed him some of my paintings and he said it’s good that you have gone back to where you came from! I think he is right. In those days Aydin and I resembled each other somehow. The university was too small for Aydin and he abandoned it. But it was not too small for me, I wasn’t good enough and didn’t know how to paint. This helped me. When I stood before the tripod, I was helpless. I remember I asked Keykhosrow Khorush [now, famous Calligrapher]: “please paint this eye for me”, or “give me some of your nose paint to see if I can raise this nose”! I barely passed Painting in university

Aghdashloo: Everyone asked Khorush, you were not alone!

Kiarostami: But when I entered the library, I realized that what the students were painting didn’t have any connection to the work of the past century. This is why I completed a 4-year program in 13 years, until they begged me to graduate, because the law didn’t allow them to kick me out.

Aghdashloo: And I left the school after 7 years, I waited for my mother to turn 60 so I became exempt from military service. As soon as my mother turned 60, I wrote that infamous resignation to the school! To concur with Abbas about the effect of painting on cinema, in a recent visit with a few architects, when asked about the hideous state of architecture in Tehran, I told them that in addition to socioeconomic reasons, it is because the young architects are not coming from a tradition of design and painting. They all have studied geometry! As Abbas said about a filmmaker, how can an architect not be a painter or a designer? It means that he doesn’t have the tools for his profession, and the result is these strange buildings.

Shargh: It seems that your era had a better atmosphere, your contemporaries are a head above others.

Aghdashloo: They affected each other. It was those individuals who made that atmosphere. In the 70s, the economy was doing well, and the social interactions were more reasoned. But it was intellectuals that made the atmosphere. Someone like Forough Farokhzad received much insult to become an iconic poet. It wasn’t so easy. In those days, everyone talked about Parvin Etesami (whom I respect) but we lived in an era that many choices were the determining factor. I remember that when Ahmadreza Ahmadi returned from New York, in response to “did you have a good time”, he said :”of course, the best time of my life because I didn’t have to constantly compare whether The Cow (Mehrjui) is better or Gheysar (Kimiai). People who made that atmosphere suffered a lot. I always talk about painters, like Ziapour. We can judge their works as we want but the context of their lives in those days was brutal, we should ask how they survived, whether anyone bought their works? They were constantly insulted, people like Nima [Yooshij] and [Sadegh] Hedayat. They claimed that their neighbor killed himself after reading Hedayat! What a nonsense. All these webs of illusions were growing, and to fight them off was not easy.

Shargh: But everyone worked seriously. You have said yourself that you self-funded your films, and worked in the meantime to be able to afford your films. Was it still a good time?

Kiarostami: To say they were good times could be misleading, as it would imply that one should wait for good times to do things. In my opinion, art doesn’t care about good or bad times, because it is a personal movement in which the entire responsibility is on the Artist’s shoulder. The artist cannot blame anything on the situation. We might say that a work is optimistic or pessimistic, but in no time should the government have any responsibility towards the artist and his work. If that is the case, no art will be produced. One of the reasons why I became a painter is because of the inspiration from Van Gogh. When I read a book about him, I realized that my life is far better than his! From his abject poverty and his predicaments, I learned that if he could become a painter, so could I; and that I didn’t need a reason or a support from anyone to become one! Naturally, other than Aydin, Van Gogh was one of the painters who influenced me because my social and economic situation has many commonalities with his.

Shargh: In those years, leftism was popular among artists and intellectuals. How come you didn’t become a lefty?

Aghdashloo: Abbas, you were not a lefty as a kid either?

Kiarostami: Never!

Aghdashloo: Me neither. How come we didn’t become lefty? The seduction was irresistible.

Kiarostami: Incidentally, we were talking about this with my family a few days ago. I said that it was because of the influence of those whom we respected. Unconsciously, those people became your behavioral model. My model was my father. I remember during the manifestations of “Hezb-e Toudeh” (People’s party), they had shut down the schools. We had communist teachers. I was 13 at the peak of the Communist’s activities and the events of “Mosaddegh” (The Coup, 1953). I recall that people were clinging to the buses! Older classmates who were workers felt the world owed them. At the age of 12, I just studied and didn’t understand these stories. Did we have to grab onto the buses and let them take us to places where we didn’t know? Did we have to say things which we didn’t understand? I remember how my father stood in the crowds, and I do this myself nowadays. He locked his hands on his chest and held them in a defensive way. He leaned against the wall when his friends were protesting and chanting slogans. I remember in one of those events, my father and I had to take refuge in a store to stay away from the revolt. He never told me what to do, but I could see that he was not a member of any party or group. He had asked my mother to send his friends away if they came to ask for him. These left their mark on me. I had seen my father as a distinguished character; who differed from others. When I saw him watch the crowd and continue to go home, without asking me to follow him, then remaining in that protest atmosphere was impossible for me.

Shargh: Where you afraid of it or you didn’t like it?

Kiarostami: Neither. I had not entered it deeply enough to know. It was attractive. It was a sign of maturity in those days to imitate what grownups did. But to me this was not a sign of maturity. If your recorder was not here, I could tell you what we had to do in order to prove that we were grownups; but none of these were the right signs for me and luckily I didn’t get involved.

My dad was always in the periphery and just watched, so much so that he had arrived at a place where others ended up many years later. I was under his direct influence. One of my other fortunes was that I became acquainted with poetry since puberty, and was almost addicted to it. Poets describe times in a poetic way, not ideological way, or along the party-lines. From Roudaki, to Saadi, to Hafiz, they were all involved in social issues, and their poetic view of life marked the destiny of humans. Somehow, when you shared in their pains and joys, you could understand how much of the life depends on your design, and not on the decisions of the politicians about your happiness. To be happy and content, nothing is more important than yourself. You have to see how best to live in the chaos of life and how to pull your weight. We might think that Hafiz and Saadi lived like poets and did not get involved in society, but if we looked deeper we could see that they were testifying to the history; and that our times are not very different from theirs. Then one cannot be too sure that individual decisions and joining left and right groups can change other’s destiny. Books record the history of the human misery.

Aghdashloo: I experienced this differently. When I went to “Ghaem Magham School”, they told us to purchase the national bonds and they organized a charade to take children to purchase bonds to help the Mossadegh government. Once in this process, I noted that a bunch of gangsters were walking parallel to us. I asked the grownups about them and I heard that they were our bodyguards against the Communist gangsters who were going to beat us up! This frightened me tremendously, a fear that for a long time prevented me from joining any crowds. I still have this fear of the crowds. Even in the past 30 years, I am anxious about going to the cinema.

Kiarostami: Other than fear, there was something else that if we paused would have noted. That “the crowds are often wrong”. This is taken from Ahmad Reza’s poem. We learned by experience that the crowds are not always right.

Aghdashloo: The crowds can say the right things with wrong reasons.

Kiarostami: The other problem is that, as Ahmad Reza said, a crowd was screaming yes, and a single bird said “no”.

Shargh: You mean you were not interested in the justice discourse?

Kiarostami: First of all, I still don’t know what justice means. It’s a very hard concept to grasp. And next, justice in which society? Justice has a particular meaning in different contexts. We cannot extract its meaning from a dictionary, and then interpret it according to the society in which we live. Justice is something else. I separate myself from the group, and look at it from a distance. It’s not because I don’t want to, but because I cannot. This inability is sometimes your character, you just cannot.

Aghdashloo: There was a time that if you were not a lefty, you were not considered to be an intellectual.

Kiarostami: During puberty you get pimples, but that should not become your defining feature (laughter), so leftism is like pimples and gets cured and can be reflected upon.

Aghdashloo: I have paid a hefty price as an independent intellectual. Maybe Abbas has too. In a world where there is a defining line to separate justice and tyranny, one was forced to join the good camp; so walking in the middle was a bit difficult, unless with hard work. Still, when they ask me about my work’s form, I tell them I have no form! But in those days, you had to be “something”. Before the revolution, in street conflicts everyone had to declare which group they belonged to. This was offensive to me. To say I am a monarchist? Meaning that I want to say who I want to be my monarch! What a joke. Or to reinforce a broken political ideology with loquacity and audacity. Even at the time of the revolution, it was clear that the foundation of the USSR was crumbling. An intellectual who looked from outside could not watch a dream that was to design a new world, with the backing of someone like Marx, to collapse like that. It was very sad.

Kiarostami: This is a position itself. Many people were like Aydin, but those who confessed to this are nowhere to be found today. Either way, you have to get inspired by the society to turn it into an essay, a film or a painting. You may say, this is what I am and I have no idea what I am. You tell me what I am. See if I am right or left. See if I am a protestant, a libertarian or a monarchist. How can we have linear positions against the phenomena around us? Some tell me that my problem is that I don’t take a committed stance. I say that I am committed only to myself. There are days that I want to make a socially responsible film, but right now I don’t have energy to protest. Society and my definition of it has changed for me. There was a time that I wanted to defend the rights of the people, but right now the definition of the people has changed for me.

Aghdashloo: Right now you have to defend for your own right against the people! (laughter)

Kiarostami: Exactly! I am happy we didn’t give any definition in those days, else we had to repent now.

Aghdashloo: We have saved face, because in those days we did not say nonsense as much as possible!

Kiarostami: Yes, I am what I showed, and now you know! There was a time that I used to say that I am a naturalist, but now I say I want to run to the nature. The two have different meanings.

Aghdashloo: You always ran to nature before too.

Kiarostami: Yes, but I do it more now.

Shargh: Childhood and Philosophy.

Aghdashloo: They were fun years but sad too; because our idealism was not ideological but a reflection of our desire to be “something”. We could see that the university establishments could not give it to us, and yet we twisted ourselves to conform to whatever the educational system was, and even desired to get into it. I remember that I was very weak in math and my teacher Mr Omi, who should be 100 now, knew that I was weak, and for this reason he did not like me. Perhaps like the ancient Greek philosophers, he thought that if one doesn’t know geometry then one has no place in this world. He treated me bitterly and harshly.

Kiarostami: He was the same way with me too.

Aghdashloo: I was like Abbas too. To be accepted, we ought to have had formal university education; and therefore we put all our energy to get in. It was my dream to get into Tehran University. I didn’t like Mr Omi because he has given me 1/10 in Algebra and 5/10 in Geometry. I even had a teenage grudge about him. As soon as I graduated from high school (and memorized all of my biology lessons to compensate for my grades), I got into the university. I had promised myself that now that I was in the university, if I crossed Mr Omi, to teach him a lesson. I was young and strong and could do him some good damage! I was strolling in the shade of trees in the university one day on my way to the Department of Fine Arts. I saw Mr Omi who was walking towards me. His briefcase was full as usual and he was walking in my direction. I walked towards him fast to pay him back and to teach him a lesson! As soon as he saw me he said: “You cow, what are you doing here?” Suddenly the wind went out of my sail, and I became the same timid student of grade 6.

Kiarostami: It was impossible to beat teachers.

Aghdashloo: No way! I answered him: “Sir, I have gotten accepted in the university.” He looked at me and said: “One must piss on a university that has accepted you.” (Laughter). I said, do you permit me to leave now? He said, “Get lost!”. And I defeatedly walked on, and never saw him again.

Kiarostami: Someone gave me 5 books of classic mystical poems and one of those was edited by Dr Ismail Hakemi.

Aghdashloo: What a memory he had.

Kiarostami: I called the publisher and asked him about Dr Hakemi. They told me that he was alive and lives in Paris but is suffering Parkinson’s. I asked the publisher to convey a poetry to him: “Although the creek water doesn’t come back, I am still awaiting for my beloved to come back!” He has recited this to us in the class!

Aghdashloo: Mr Nabati too. He was our biology teacher and luckily, he is alive and very well. One of my first philosophical doubts happened in the Jam High School! From a very cute joke. Mr Nabati was a religious man but he taught Darwin. Once he was teaching he realised our conflicted minds question/answering and doubting. He decided to inform us that all universe is not what is taught to us in the biology books and science doesn’t have all the answers. So he started talking about the discovery of a strange worm that has not died under extreme radiation, or from pouring poison in its mouth, or from freezing, or heat … He was expecting us to be dazzled and say “God is great”. Of course we were dazzled; but we had a classmate called Bahrami, who suddenly said: “Permission, Sir?”. Mr Nabati, in the height of excitement, said: “yes, go ahead!” And Bahrami said: “well they could have stepped on it”. (High laughter)

Kiarostami: Very beautiful, he had a good philosophy.

Aghdashloo: Mr Nabati took Bahrami’s tail and threw him out of the class. This was the first time that I realized complicated things could be very simple. In this “step on it”, I developed a great philosophy!

Kiarostami: Aghayi was imprisoned during the Shah regime. The agents had tortured him to confess but he refused. They had even cut his leg! Until someone said maybe I can have him confess. He had put a Quran before him and had said: I swear you on this book for you to tell us all you know.” And he had confessed all. As easy as that!

Aghdashloo: That school opened strange doors to us. Bahrami became the driver and bodyguard of Hoveyda. He was tall from a Russian mother.

Kiarostami: Bahrami never wrote his prose. He was a rough and funny boy. Our teacher asked him to write his composition about “Time is Gold”. And he began reading: “The topic of this composition is ‘time is gold’. Everyone believes that time is gold. I agree, but it depends on when. For example, when we are waiting for a girl who is not showing up, how can we believe that time is gold? But if you think that time is gold, I won’t take your time further and end my composition here.” When the teacher looked at his booklet, he noticed it was blank and he had not written this up! (laughter)

Aghdashloo: Talking about justice, when Abbas raised the issue, usually we discovered the first injustice and tyranny in school.

Kiarostami: In fact, the school is a small model of the society.

Aghdashloo: Yes, the Jam High School where Abbas and I studied was a small model of our society, we could find and see everything in it. It was a multipolar society composed of vastly different classes; from Gholhak villagers to those who used Gholhak as their summer homes and belonged to the aristocracy. Spoiled kids who came to school with their drivers and paid to get grades. Or the bullies who somehow determined everything. For instance Ahmad Maleki; who looked like he was 25 and was stuck in grade 5!

Kiarostami: Yes, there were students larger than teachers!

Aghdashloo: Ahmadi Maleki somehow ruled the place.

Kiarostami: We had a teacher named Mr Zahedi who had an herbal drugstore in Tajrish. He had caught Maleki cheating because he had opened the book and was copying!

Aghdashloo: And was coping wrong too! (laughter)

Kiarostami: Maleki was holding the book tight and kept writing and Mr Zahedi didn’t have enough force to take the book. He then took us witness: “Kids, look, he is not letting me take the book! He is officially and rudely cheating!”

Aghdashloo: We had a very naughty classmate whose name I won’t say now; and a very elegant teacher, Mr Sina who taught Physics. Our classmate was a menace and I hope he has hit the wall by now. One day, Mr Sina threw him out of the class and returned to teaching. Someone knocked the door, Mr Sina opened the door and suddenly started walking backward. The classmate had punched him in the eye and was holding his fist in the air. At the end, they threw this student out of school. When we asked what he was doing, he said “I have screwed Mr Sina.”, of course he used a different word. We asked “How?”, he said “I changed the school”. (laughter). I later realized that this school has taught us many lessons. Because we did art, we had a different position. Later on, I learned that in the midst of all conflicts, the naughty kids were experts in creating gangs. They were constantly fighting with the upper-class students. We were safe, as if with an invisible wall. There was a man called Mohsen who was a gang leader and he was protecting me. The reason was because I had promised to paint his father’s portrait. Of course I didn’t do it —like painting I promise now and don’t deliver— until I left the school. He was waiting for the painting for all three years and in exchange protected me from the bad boys. It is there that I realized artists have a special place. In another occasion, I learned that our presumptions were not always correct. We had another naughty classmate called Morteza. And another one who was a gigolo, had cornelly hair and dressed well. In Morteza’s view, this guy was a pest who had to be kicked out of school and constantly got on his case; and this person always treated him politely. Until one day they had a fight, and Morteza who was a wrestler hussler, thought that he could knock this boy out in a blink. But the gigolo beat Morteza up so badly that we were all shocked. He had thrown Morteza in the creek and was walking on him. It was then that I learned that a gigolo can beat a champion.

Shargh: Solitude and creativity. You have never been seduced by propaganda and advertisements of a trend and have kept your style …

Aghdashloo: Abbas is still like that.

Kiarsotami: I am not up-to-date. If I lived another hundred years, maybe events would have affected my work, but right now, I am still doing what I did 40 years ago.

Aghdashloo: And since each year takes five, I doubt that we will ever reach that.

Kiarostami: Everything that I have belongs to those years really. Luckily, events have not had a negative impact on our lives. We have not lost a loved one and have enjoyed relative security.

Shargh: But have the current situations had an effect?

Kiarostami: It’s the quotidian that has an impact but when you are bearing witness you cannot use that as an excuse. You have to be passionate about something to create it, and to be passionate you have to know.

Shargh: But you were under pressure in previous years …

Kiarostami: Frightening pressure. We have two sides. On the one hand, as a citizen of this country we share in all problems, including inflation, high costs, pollution. On the other hand, we need our buffer of solitude. I don’t let these things enter my solitude. Like any citizen, I have the common sufferings. A merchant can adapt to inflation by raising the prices. How can I adapt my work? You have to see the effect of the situation in our product. Aydin has to sit down and paint his clay urn. Now pressures can break his urn, but that is not being up-to-date. Journalism needs to be up-to-date! As Aydin said, we really loved to go to the university. When the bus driver announced the university station, I wanted to be the first person who said “stop”, because I was hoping a couple of people who looked at me would know that I was accepted in the university. This is how big a dream this was for me and the context of this dream was laid in “Bahram University” [the elementary school he talked about at the beginning]. I was the only one to go to the university and there were a few from the Jam High School.

Aghdashloo: The point is that all things happen in that solitude. When I am very depressed, I don’t show it. I just wet old pieces of clay, from 900 years ago, and I smell them. It’s a strange scent and makes me feel better! Maybe this is why I don’t belong to any political direction, because every bias pulls you out of your solitude. In Gorky’s book, The Mother, the grandfather tells his grandson: “you are not a medal for me to hang from my neck, go to the people”. One doesn’t need to draw lines between people. My favorite author is Bulgakov. He is writing his book The Master and Margarita in the basement of his room. I identify with him a lot! The basement window is a little one—like here—and he knows people from the shape of their feet and knows when Margarita is coming. This is not isolation, this is solitude.

Kiarostami: What kind of isolation is one that is filled with thought of others? If you call a crowd to watch your moments of solitude, that is not isolation. Isolation has no product.

Aghdashloo: But my dear Abbas, that school and those times, with all poverty and childishness and impossible dreams and disillusions about the university, was still a lot of fun. We lived an age that we could reach our limits, due to perseverance or something. I had a lot of fun, with all the poverty. Our lives were very hard because we couldn’t have essential things. My friend, Feyzollah Payami used to tell me: “Aydin, how long should we be this miserable? Look, when we open our closet, we have only two sets of clothes, one for party and one for work. Would there come a day that we open the closet to find several sets? Our collars were always torn, because in fights, that was the first thing that the opponent pulled. My mother was used to this, and stitched it back. Or always sewed my socks. But I think Abbas had it better.

Kiarostami: No, ours was the same. We wore them on top of each other (socks). You were a single child but we were many and didn’t have it easy.

Aghdashloo: But your dad was alive and this was an advantage. I was always hungry and ate what I found! Now if my daughter and my family read this, they are going to scold me for saying these things!

Shargh: You pointed that everything belongs to 40 years ago. But I think the isolation made your art more personal to enable it to find universal audience …

Kiarostami: I agree. That is true, you probably gain something when you lose something.

Shargh: Had you ever reviewed those times like this?

Kiarostami: No! It takes time for things to surface. For example we talked about Ahmad Maleki. There are thousand layers behind each name and each story. We come from a strange time. For instance, Dariush Shayan who is 8 years older than us, has seen things which we have not. I cannot say he has experienced poverty himself, but must have seen it. My mother says that when they slaughtered a sheep in those days, there was a line-up of people who waited with a bowl to make a meal with the blood. People who are ten years older than me have seen this, and to reach this era of bizarre supermarkets, when no one dies of hunger, is an entire different story.

Shargh: The image of your generation in the mind of many is one of comfort and plentifulness.

Kiarostami: Whatever you say on this will sound like a manifesto. Is art created from poverty or luxury? Art has always existed, and all people experience particular times. But art has never gone into recession and has always been in movement. In the world of art, we have had Lautrec who lived in comfort and luxury and we had Van Gogh in misery and poverty. These are individual preferences and have nothing to do with the society. The society cannot claim the honor of creating artists, and think they are serving the artists; nor can it feel guilty for the pressures they experience. “What else can a flower do but to open?” If you are into it, you will succeed and if not, you will find reasons for failure.

Shargh: All ideologies have an ideal. What is our artistic outlook?

Kiarostami: If sponsorship is the creator of arts, then why has there been no artist coming out of the past 30 years of (governmental) sponsorship? This all depends on solitude, what you permit to get to your mind. If you allow yourself to be affected more than others by the events, your work will naturally change. We work with our minds, and we can give it permission where to go.

Shargh: This shows that your method has been correct as in the next generation, many have been trying to imitate you.

Kiarostami: When you go toward popular art, you should expect the people to defend you. Naturally you become dependent on it. But the crowds are one day with you and one day against, so you lose your independence. You have to assess your independence, your solitude, and who and what can enter it; and who and what is kept out of it. The problem in art is that some think the method of successful people is the right one, but maybe the method of their opponents has been the right one too.

Shargh: If an individual feels satisfied, is that acceptable?

Kiarostami: “We closed the door on others/ We came in crowd but sat with you alone” … but the second verse is sentimental so I can’t recite the rest!

Shargh: It’s interesting that you have come to Aghdashlu’s after 60 years.

Kiarostami: Yes, from Aydin to Aydin. Sometimes numbers help. We made this appointment because of the 60th anniversary. Last year it was 59 and it wouldn’t work. Next year either!

Shargh: In the view of many, you keep growing …

Aghdashloo: The point is if others think the same of me?

Kiarostami: What I learned here is that the period of formation of Aydin was the same as mine. Perhaps if you asked me who has influenced me in those days I would not have thought of Aydin, but to review the history of our school made me realize that.

Aghdashloo: But you normally don’t talk about your past.

Kiarostami: Mr Savoji came to my office to record my memoir. I said a few things but I refused a second conversation. I had a frightening memory as I had recalled strange stories from when I was 5. For instance, I talked about my grandfather and my father who had run from his father-in-law’s pressure and built a house in Ekhtiyariye, where they moved when I was 40 days old. We lived there for two years. It didn’t have doors and we hung blankets. Our house was the only one to see from afar and was surrounded by farms. A little house with a red gables with nothing surrounding it but wheat farms.

Aghdashloo: I was saying somewhere that I was always hungry. In those days there was a tree in the ruins near our school, we ate its fruit. The fruit were slightly bigger than a lentil and the whole fruit was a pit and the flesh as thin as paper. We climbed the tree, ate those fruit and enjoyed!

Kiarostami: If you ate 50 of those it was like a cranberry.

Shargh: Were you that starved?

Aghdashloo: We were not starved, we were playful. And playfulness has a reason. Either way we had fun.

Kiarostami: And it will be more fun.

Aghdashloo: Until they carry us vertically out of the basement.

Shargh: To finish, on the eve of the new year, do you have a statement to make about the future?

Kiarostami: The future is the complement of the past. As Aydin said we had fun, we will have more fun.

Aghdashloo: I have a friend who had fallen in love with someone with a major age gap (about 37 years). The love was strong until disagreements started. Once the woman wanted me to ask the friend what was to happen to them in the future. I told her, don’t know about your future, but he is living in the future! Which future? We are living in the future, and to look carefully, not much is left. But to finish. Let me recite a poem, which I think is very beautiful:

“The runner, ran
I don’t know if he arrived or not
Because the future is late.”

We were runners, and we ran. Whether the future comes soon or late doesn’t matter at all.

Shargh: In our minds, you are part of Iran’s territory, it cannot be annexed or invaded …

Aghdashloo: That is too kind of you, and makes one happy.

Kiarostami: This is one optimistic view.


Photo of Aydin Aghdashloo from The Iran Project

An Interview With Abbas Kiarostami and Aydin Aghdashloo

Najmeh Khalili Mahani, PhD, is a Canadian-Iranian researcher, currently working as a Neuroscientist in the Netherlands. She graduated from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema with a Master’s degree in Film studies in 2008. Her cinema writings focus on the historical or sociological contexts that inform the narrative of films, with particular attention to technological and formal elements that influence the film’s phenomenology.

Volume 21 Issue 7 / July 2017 Interviews   abbas kiarostami   aydin aghdashloo   iranian cinema   poetry   politics and art