Kiarostami offering workshop in Havana for young filmmakers

havana-live-abbas-kiarostamiHAVANA, Jan. 27th Committed to helping develop aspiring filmmakers and attracted by the nostalgic feel of Cuba, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has inaugurated a workshop at Havana’s International School of Film and Television, where he stressed the benefits of being forced to create amid a lack of resources.

“For me personally, the limitations helped me,” said Kiarostami, who has forged a 37-year career in a country that, like the Communist-ruled island, has been the target of a U.S. sanctions regime.

The Iranian filmmaker, who has spent much of the past 20 years giving workshops all over the world, hailed the quality of the graduates of Havana’s International School of Film and Television, founded 30 years ago by the late Colombian Nobel literature laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, yet he also stressed that instructors’ role was not to impart knowledge to students.

“Cinema can’t be taught or learned. Like all art, it’s the result of curiosity or an inquiry. All I do in the workshops is guide the students to find answers to their questions,” said the director, whose “Taste of Cherry” was awarded the Palme d’Or prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

Asked about the warmer relations that the United States has pursued with both Iran and Cuba under the Obama administration, Kiarostami said these processes were still very recent and needed time to be analyzed before they could be brought to the big screen.

Though now in the latter stages of his illustrious career, the 75-year-old said he was now returning to experimental short films like those he made as a young director in the early 1970s, summoning up the energy that he had then and which he hopes will inspire his students.

During the workshop, which starts on Tuesday and will run until Feb. 5, the 45 participants from 25 countries will be able to make a short film under the guidance of Kiarostami, known as a “poet of the cinema” for images that show the influence of his studies of Persian verse.

“If I teach you to make films, you’ll limit yourself to repeating what I do, and then where’s your personality? I’m only going to guide you,” Kiarostami told his students.

The director will help the young people find locations for shooting and draw upon local acting talent to cast their films, the best of which will be presented at international film festivals, where the Iranian director’s works are always well-received.

“Kiarostami is a point of reference for many of us. He’s a poet of cinema. This is a workshop that’s going to transform the way in which we confront audiovisual narrative,” the Dominican Republic’s Pablo Lozano, one of the aspiring filmmakers selected to participate in the workshop, told EFE.

Lozano, who graduated from the International School of Film and Television with a specialization in documentary cinema, said Kiarostami’s workshop would help channel his efforts to complete his first feature-length picture, in terms of “narrating the story from the viewpoint of the character as opposed to my own.”

Although cinema heavyweights including Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Costa-Gavras and Spike Lee have visited that Havana film school, Kiarostami’s workshop is the first of its kind to be held at the prestigious academy.

Kiarostami on Monday in Havana received the Tomas Gutierrez Alea International Film Prize, which is awarded by the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. EFE