Obscure Elegy

Or in adoration of the power of touch!

This is for my Cuba family and anyone who loves the “Taste of Cherry” both in its general and specific meanings.

I should admit that up until this point I was not willing to put too much thought into the events of the past several months, whatever the reason, I tried avoiding the news and diverted my mind to anything and everything other than Abbas Kiarostami and his untimely death. But this is not easy when everyone around knows how inspiring he was to you or when you are in the middle of editing a film that you’ve shot under his direct supervision and you still review his notes on it. It becomes particularly tougher when you are fluent in Persian and naturally a few clicks away from a staggering number of Iranian websites which persistently disclose private information and infuriating news on the shocking negligence of his medical case or even worse when for weeks, half of your social media news feed is constantly flooded with his funeral photos. I could argue that my decision was also an avoidance strategy to stand against the futile interactions on social media which is letting down millions of people desperately chasing technology in hopes of finding a replacement for the power of touch, but that’s another topic and in fact the subject of a live show that we will be running in a few months here in Los Angeles.

But it was only last night at the USC school of Cinematic Arts tribute event to Abbas Kiarostami, that it all began to sink in for me. An interesting panel consisting of the legendary film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, Kiarostami’s former mentee and aspiring director Anahita Ghazvinizade and the lead actor for his Palme D’or winning “Taste of Cherry” Homayoun Ershadi, were the three panelists to recount their personal memories with the filmmaker whose films shaped an essential part of my younger years and the man who changed so much in me not only as a filmmaker, but also as a human being during the brief time that I had the chance to work with him.

The seats were soon filled up with people to an extent that so many had to end up standing in the back of the theater. While one could feel the sense of solemnity waving in the audience, it was still a joy to think about the impact of Kiarostami’s work on every single member of the audience and wonder what derived so many enthusiasts to be there on such a busy Los Angeles weekday evening. I could envision him being there; genteelly observing all those faces from beneath his dark glasses and coming up with stories about the life of each and every one of them.

When finally it was Ershadi’s turn to speak, he just stared at the floor for a few brief seconds, he recounted that he has denied all the request for interviews since this tragedy had stroke and then broke down to tears as he mumbled that he still couldn’t believe his death. Sitting in the back of the theater the blow caught me off guard, something just as hard broke in me, making me to finally face and accept the inevitable. All I could remind myself was to breath…

During the break I approached to Ershadi, his sad eyes were the same as the ones staring at a dusty Tehran outskirts from behind his milky Range Rover windows and his deep voice, a reminiscent of Kiarostamis’. I tried to open a conversation but my jaw froze before I could even speak a word. He hugged me as we stood in the middle of the Ray Stark theater for a few brief seconds and then we let go without exchanging any words…

This coming year will be the 20th anniversary of “Taste of Cherry” wining the only Palm D’or in the history of Iranian cinema. Abbas, as he predicted, will not be among us to celebrate the occasion. As for me, I now know an alternate ending to the story of “Mr. B’aadi-i”. He doesn’t die in that hole, but instead he lives for another twenty years to meet a lost guy somewhere in LA and give him a hug at the exact moment that he needs one…

This isn’t Mr. Badiis final act