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Kiarostami Stuns Venice With Kurdish Tale

By Merissa Marr

Sept 6, VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - If you're after action-packed drama, Abbas Kiarostami's films may not be for you. (Related photo)

If instead you're looking for beautiful photography and a simple story that lovingly explores the rituals of a local population, the acclaimed director's new film ``Le vent nous emportera'' (''The wind will take us'') may be just the ticket.

Premiering at the Venice Film Festival Monday, Kiarostami's film follows the travails of a group of people from Tehran who visit a remote Kurdish village looking for -- something.

In typical Kiarostami style, that ``something'' is for the viewer to work out as he deliberately leaves holes in the plot for the audience to fill in while building the scene with sweeping shots of wheat fields and the Iranian countryside.

``I prefer the kind of film-making that relies on the viewers' imagination so that they take part...themselves,'' the 59-year-old director told a news conference.

The Cannes Palme d'Or winner sets a slow pace to explore everyday events in the village, like getting milk and drinking tea as well as more startling rituals such as women scratching their faces in mourning.

The film is already being tipped as a possible winner. As in his other films, Kiarostami used non-professional actors and spotted protagonist Behzad Dourani walking down

the street one day. He also used locals from the village, many of whom had never watched a film before.

``The village was so remote they were not aware of film-making but that meant they weren't embarrassed by the camera. They were very natural,'' Kiarostami said, speaking in Farsi.

Despite the choice of a remote village in the Kurd-populated area of Iran, Kiarostami said the film had no political message.

``If viewers have the impression of receiving a direct political message, it's up to them but it's not my intention,'' said the director who won the Cannes film festival Palme d'Or for ``Ta'm e guilass'' (''Taste of a Cherry'') in 1997.

Also in competition Monday, Portuguese director Alberto Seixas Santos presented ``Mal'' (''Evil'') which follows a theme of physical and moral evil.

It tells the story of Cathy who becomes infected with AIDS from her promiscuous husband Pedro and how their lives become entwined with delinquent Daniel, a drug addict.

``In a film in which the main theme is evil and its power of contamination, I wanted each scene to influence the rhythm and tone of the next,'' the 63-year-old Seixas Santos said.

``I have taken on problems which I hear about daily on public transport, in the street, in restaurants, schools, papers, TV and at home.''

Eighteen films are in competition for Venice's top Golden Lion prize including Jane Campion's ``Holy Smoke'' and Antonio Banderas' ``Crazy in Alabama.''

The festival ends on September 11.


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