Persep0lis written and directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (based on Satrapi’s graphic novel) is a French-produced animated film that’s been nominated for and won tons of different awards. This movie chronicles the Iranian revolution of 1979 and subsequent transition to the Islamic Republic we all know and love today through the eyes of a young middle class girl, Marji (the writer) and her family. Critics often point to Satrapi’s graphic novel as example-primo of autobiography in sequential art, and with Iran’s recent election and continuing problems playing nice with the rest of the world, we were eager to check out the cinema version.
It’s not only interesting for the historical perspective, but also in how the events affect Marji, her family, and her values as she grows to adulthood. She starts off wanting to become a communist like her famous Uncle, and chases the son of military commander through the streets with sticks as a child. As a teen she becomes more outspoken and rebellious (don’t we all), which eventually leads to her parents hurriedly shipping her to a family friend in Vienna to prevent her arrest by the cultural police. When Marji returns to Tehran several years later, having survived the 80’s western cultural scene and a nearly fatal stint of homelessness, she does so with a renewed appreciation for familial and cultural bonds. She tries to live her life in accordance with the ever more stifling dictates of Iran’s cleric-controlled government, but even after a stint with depression followed by renewed intellectual curiosity at the university, Marji just can’t quite resign herself to the reality of life in Iran.
Persepolis provides great insight into the plight faced by women within fundamentalist Islamic regimes throughout the world. It’s a plight that cuts to the heart of the continuing distrust and uneasiness between Muslims and non-Muslims. Simply stated, it’s hard for westerners to reconcile themselves with a religious/governmental system that so marginalizes females. Marji Satrapi’s story humanizes the struggle so many Iranians have faced over the past thirty years, and it does so with verve and style.