AFP: A biting animation about a young girl’s life under Iran’s ayatollahs screened at Cannes Tuesday despite protests from Tehran of Western bias.
by Claire Rosemberg
CANNES, France, May 22, 2007 (AFP) – A biting animation about a young girl’s life under Iran’s ayatollahs screened at Cannes Tuesday despite protests from Tehran of Western bias.
“Persepolis”, one of 22 films competing for the festival’s top award, is based on the eponymous comic-book series by Iranian Marjane Satrapi.
It offers a child’s eye look at Iran from the age of eight, just as the Shah is about to be evicted by the Islamic regime still in place today.
And if the critics’ enthusiastic response is borne out, the black-and-white feature — jointly directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud — could have a good shot at the coveted Palme d’Or to be awarded Sunday.
Iran has slammed the movie as “an unreal picture of the outcomes and achievements of the Islamic revolution” and protested to France that the festival’s decision to select it highlighted “the biased policies of domineering powers.”
Satrapi herself, however, says the wry autobiographical comic-strip “isn’t a politically oriented film with a message to sell.”
“It’s first and foremost a film about my love for my family,” she said in production notes. “If Western audiences end up considering Iranians as human beings, not as abstract notions like ‘Islamic fundamentalists’, ‘terrorists’ or the ‘Axis of evil’, then I’ll feel like I’ve done something.”
The only child of a politically-aware couple, Satrapi recounts her life in Tehran from 1978, when she was eight, to her years as a fiercely outspoken 14-year-old, when she was packed off to Vienna by her parents to avoid arrest, or worse.
She later returned to Tehran for art classes (where the “nude” models have to wear chadors) and an unhappy marriage before emigrating to France.
Her work explores the split she felt between tradition and modernity, and details a life in which she was initially wearing jeans and listening to rock — then forced to wrap up in a chador.
Brought up in a middle-class leftwing family, relatives and neighbours bring grisly tales of torture and whippings.
At an early age, Marji — short for Marjane — witnesses the social hypocrisy of the teachers and the neighbours who switch sides.
“How can you claim there’re no political prisoners when, compared to the 3,000 detainees under the Shah, there’re 300,000 under your regime?” she tells a religious studies teacher in the mid-1980s. “How can you lie like that?”
And, when told off by Islamist police for running down the street because it looks sexy, she quips: ‘Well then just don’t look at my ass!”
From the effects of the Gulf war to boy-girl relations and life in exile, Satrapi exposes her view of a changing Iran and its mollahs and rebels with wit and sensitivity.
Satrapi, who still lives in France, was barely 30 when the first instalment of her comic-book autobiography “Persepolis” was released in France in 2000. It has since been translated into a dozen languages. But it is not available in Iran.
Why did the two directors stick to abstract black-and-white for the film? “I think this helped everybody to relate to it, whether in China, Israel, Chile or Korea, it’s a universal story,” Satrapi said.
“I don’t hate my country,” she has said. “I criticise because I love it.”