Iran, despite being a post-revolutionary, crisis-stricken country, has managed to produce some of the most artistically pleasing films in the history of cinema. And the man who made sure Iran stood tall on the global cinematic landscape is the film director Abbas Kiarostami.
He also popularised the Iranian New Wave, which gave birth to auteurs like Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Majid Majidi, Jafar Panahi, and Asghar Farhadi.
These men acted as a guiding light for film-makers who were brimming with ideas but lacked the resources to turn their dreams into cinema.
Here are the top five Iranian movies of post-revolution Iran.
Children of Heaven (1997)
Director: Majid Majidi
Majid Majidi's strength lies in the fact that he has mastered the art of keeping things simple.
There are no fancy camera angles or deeply rooted philosophies about love and life. Not many people understand children and their relationship with each other. But Majid does and that's what helps him conjure fairytale-like stories set in a conservative rural Iranian home.
The story of "Children of Heaven" narrates the poverty-ridden lives of siblings Ali and Zehra, who belong from the destitute regions of Southern Tehran, and the hardships they endure to retrieve Zehra's newly repaired pair of shoes without burdening their parents.
It is a heartfelt film that does not wallow in self-pity and focuses on the beauty of relationships while teaching us a thing or two about compassion.
Taste of Cherry (1997)
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
There are not many film-makers that have dealt with suicide as deeply and rationally as Kiarostami has.
In "Taste of Cherry", the protagonist has lost all love for life and wants someone to bury him. He meets different people starting from a Young Kurd Soldier to an Afghan seminarist to a Turk Taxidermist, all of them being minorities.
He requests them to bury him if he is dead in exchange for money. Everyone tries to show him a different perspective, but he's not interested in sermons.
What makes the film interesting is that at no point in time does the director explain the reason behind his unhappiness. According to the protagonist, suicide is a deadly sin but it is no worse than being unhappy as unhappiness can be contagious.
"Taste of Cherry" is a film that provokes existential and nihilistic questions. Should one be allowed to take his life? Is anything worth it? What is worse: A life full of unhappiness or death?
The film has a polarising finale that should be experienced but even if it is ignored, it will remain a masterpiece.
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
We have seen many great films about films themselves but not all of those could explore the love for cinema quite like "Close Up".
"I'm interested in cinema", says a man who tells a fellow passenger that he is a famous director. This film narrates the true story of Ali Sabzian, a cinephile who impersonated the director Mohsen Makhmalbaf to convince a family they would star in his new film.
But when the family uncovers Sabzian's true identity, his fate hangs in the balance. The rest of the film explores how one harmless lie could change people's perception of you with your changing role in society.
Shot like a docu-drama, Kiarostami makes proper use of handheld camera angles to make the shots seem more natural.
A Separation (2011)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
"A Separation", as the name suggests, is a film that portrays the lives of a middle-class couple who are on the verge of getting a divorce due to irreconcilable differences.
The story focuses on the disappointment and desperation suffered by the daughter arising from egotistical disputes and separation of her parents, and the conflicts that arise when the husband hires a lower-class caregiver for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
Despite being a drama, this film works best as a slow-burn thriller with new facts getting uncovered with every scene.
This film uses the concept of separation intellectually as an analogy of sorts to narrate the deep-rooted religious and cultural resentments and differences in belief between the different factions of Iranian society.
Director: Jafar Panahi
"Offside" narrates the story of female football fans who impersonate men to watch a game of football between Iran and Bahrain since women were banned from sports for four decades until the "Blue Girl" set herself on fire from this absurd sexist regulation.
In this film, Panahi uses Football as a backdrop to discuss discrimination and patriarchy in Iranian society without directly pointing fingers at the tyrannical government.
Panahi has always used his films as a political statement to subtly attack Iran's government institutions. His reputation of calling out the government is so strong that he sent the ministry a fake script for "Offside" to get the license and not get banned, all the while using his Assistant's name as the director's.