Persepolis: Humanizing Iran through Animation

persepolisI’ve just recently seen the film Persepolis, an animated feature by the Iranian comic artist Marjane Satrapi. It’s a French production, based on her autobiographical graphic novels about growing up in Iran around the time of the great Islamic revolution – which saw the overthrow the Shah of Iran back in the 70’s.

Marjane survives the revolution (as a child, she romps around her living room chanting “down with the Shah”) and spends her early teenage years under the Islamic fundamentalist society imposed by Ayatalloh Khomeini and his successors. After the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, her parents send her off to Europe for studies, sparing her the ravages of the grueling 8-year conflict that claimed one million lives.

For an animated feature, it treads on pretty heavy political ground, but essentially it’s a personal coming of age story for Marjane, and it skillfully manages to humanize Iranians and Iranian society. The Neocons may have tended to paint Iran in the darkest “axis of evil” colors, but in the end, Iranians are just plain folks like you and me.

Great little film. The animation is nowhere near Pixar-quality, but it has a great heart, and is actually quite moving and thought-provoking.

There are a number of video clips on YouTube that touch on Marjane, her graphic novels, and the film. Here is a news clip from a press conference promoting the film at a film festival in New York, where she stresses the film’s aspirations for humanizing Iranians for a world used to seeing them in a much harsher light.

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