TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Hundreds of Iranians attended a candlelit ceremony Tuesday to mourn the death of film director Abbas Kiarostami, who died at the age of 76 after a career spanning more than four decades.
President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter that the director's "different and deep attitude toward life and invitation to peace and friendship" would be a "lasting achievement." He referred to Kiarostami by his first name, a sign of closeness in Iranian culture.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Kiarostami's death was a loss for international cinema, and referred to him as "Ostad," a term of respect rarely used by political leaders when referring to artists.
Iranian artists and other celebrities expressed condolences, including fellow director Asghar Farhadi , who won Iran's first Oscar for "A Separation" in 2012.
"His death is not believable and I already miss his expressions," Farhadi said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
On Tuesday night hundreds of Iranians, including many artists, gathered in Tehran Cinema Museum to light candles beneath large portraits of him.
Neda Samadi said she flew all the way to Tehran from Bandar Abbas, some 1,250 kilometers (780 miles) south of Tehran, to pay her respects. "Kiarostami reflected my life and those of many others like me in his films," she said.
Kiarostami wrote and directed dozens of films. His 1997 film "Taste of Cherry" won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He died in Paris, where he was undergoing treatment for cancer.
Kiarostami's body will be flown back to Iran next week for the funeral.