France-USA 2007, 96 mins
Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novels about a young girl growing up in Tehran around the time of the 1979 Iranian revolution, the big-screen Persepolis – which Satrapi co-directed with Vincent Paronnaud – zigzags between past and present, Iran and Europe, to create a deliciously mischievous portrait of life in exile. Satrapi’s heroine Maui travels between colour and black and white, where colour represents the drab present of airport lounges and a rootless existence.

‘It’s not easy to squeeze 16 years of life into 90 minutes,’ says Satrapi. ‘Some people have thought the colour in the film represents Europe and Iran is black and white, but that’s not the case. Colour does not represent happiness – it was more a code to make people understand the use of flashback.’

The action opens with a grown-up Marji waiting in Paris’ Orly airport, where the plumes of smoke from her ever-present cigarette transport her to her past in pre-revolutionary Iran. In 2D black-and-white animation we see a pre-teen Marji stomp around her parents’ apartment, showing off her kung-fu prowess in homage to Bruce Lee. Her intellectual, middle-class parents Tadji and Ebi eagerly await the fall of the Shah and the promise of greater freedoms, while the girl’s grandmother feeds Marji a steady diet of worldly irreverence.

With the arrival of the revolution, however, the frames become filled with the silhouettes of young men, foregrounded against a clamouring mob, throwing stones at helmeted riot police, and then more plumes of smoke, this time from the teargas pellets launched by the representatives of the Shah’s doomed regime. ‘This was a revolution everyone believed in at the start,’ says Satrapi. ‘It was only when wearing a veil became compulsory in school that I understood there were changes coming. They were horrifying changes, but we were children and we played at making fun of the ideology. And then the Iran-Iraq war came.’

It is at such moments, as hope is replaced by a dawning fear, that the ‘old-school’ hand-drawn 2D animation of Persepolis works most vividly, capturing a country cloaked in chadors and terror as Ayatollah Khomeini’s mullahs consolidate their grip on power in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s western-backed attack. Satrapi and Paronnaud – an underground French comic-book artist who frequently works under the pseudonym of Winshluss – deftly contrast the everyday adventures of Marji and her classmates, their faces now framed by the oval of the hijab, with the brutality of the Islamic regime’s purges, as bearded heavies assassinate political dissenters. There are also poignant depictions of young Iranian men sent to martyrdom in the minefields, plastic keys to paradise around their necks: the distant murmur of the battlefield is overwritten by the hollow sound of exploding corpses before a final freeze-frame captures one soul’s ascent from earth, his extended limbs bordered by a kapow-style firebomb.

Marji’s political maturation comes through conversations with her uncle Anouche, a communist forever in hiding or in prison who regales her with tales of Marx and the proletariat uprising. But Satrapi sidesteps political dogma or didacticism with such images as the young Marji imagining herself in conversation with the father of communism, his billowing white hair and beard conjuring a cross between Santa Claus and God, or nestling on a cloud between Marx and God as the two work to restore her faith in humanity. ‘I don’t believe you can fight one form of fanaticism with another form of fanaticism,’ she says. ‘We have to use logic and pragmatism. If the goal of fanaticism is to push a button and produce an emotional response, the goal of anti-fanaticism should be the opposite. If fanaticism has the answer to everything, our duty is to ask questions.’

When Persepolis won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2007 – an award it shared with Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light – a cultural advisor to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused France of stirring up Islamophobia. That protest came only days after the head of the government-affiliated Farabi Cinema Foundation sent a letter to the French cultural attaché in Tehran claiming the French-backed film presented ‘an unreal picture of the outcomes and achievements of the Islamic revolution.’ Persepolis was withdrawn as opening film at the Bangkok International Film Festival, reportedly after pressure from the Iranian embassy in Thailand, and it has been denied a release in Lebanon for fear it may provoke unrest among supporters of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Yet far from being anti-Iranian, Persepolis plays as a heartfelt paean to Satrapi’s homeland. Indeed if anything, it’s her adopted home of Europe that comes off worse, with British culpability for the political situation made clear as one image shows a marionette-like UK intelligence agent manoeuvring the Shah’s father into power. And on a personal level Marji finds the French Lycée in Vienna where she’s sent at age 14 to keep her out of trouble with the authorities casually racist and insipid in comparison with life in Tehran, where her parents and their friends hold illicit parties with flowing alcohol and black-market salesman hawk contraband copies of Pink Floyd cassettes.

‘I never went to as many parties as I did in Iran,’ says Satrapi. ‘In France going to a party meant sitting around a table talking about politics: no food, no dancing, no music, nothing. In Iran we went to the hairdressers before, we made ourselves up, had lots of food and drink. But when it came down to a question of freedom of expression and thinking, these were things I couldn’t deal with. If I can’t say what I want, if I can’t behave in a way that I am, if I have to lie to myself everyday, then it is not a life. This is why I left.’

During our interview Satrapi oscillates between serious and playful, and Persepoils too transcends its potential bleakness to offer a joyous celebration of Iran and Iranians, symbolised by the jasmine flowers whose scent pervades Marji’s grandmother’s bra and which cascade down the screen at the end of the final scene.

Persepolis was the name given to the 6th-century city founded by Darius I and destroyed by Alexander the Great. ‘In order to understand what is happening you have to have some historical depth,’ says Satrapi. ‘Before the revolution we had a country with a king and a queen and flying carpets. After 1979 the king and queen become guardians of the revolution and the flying carpets become rockets. So we are stuck between these images.’ With characteristic iconoclasm, though, she can’t help but add a final remark about why she chose her title. ‘Persepolis is an easy name to remember.’
Marjane Satrapi interviewed by Ali Jaafar, Sight and Sound, May 2008

Un film de: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
©/Presented by: 2.4.7. Films
©/In co-production with: France 3 Cinéma
In co-production with: Kennedy/Marshall Co., Franche Connection Animation, Diaphana Distribution
In association with: Celluloïd Dreams, Sony Pictures Classics, Sofica Soficinéma, Sofica EuropaCorp
With the participation of: Centre national de la cinématographie, Région Ile de France, Fondation Groupama Gan pour le Cinéma, Procirep, Angoa
Produced by: Marc-Antoine Robert, Xavier Rigault
US Co-producer: Tara Grace
Produced in collaboration with: Rémi Burah
Associate Producer: Kathleen Kennedy
Post-production Supervisor: Christina Crassaris
Artistic Director: Marc Jousset
1st Assistant Director: Denis Walgenwitz
Voice Casting: Sylvie Peyrucq
Story Artists: Jean-Charles Finch, Alexandre Hesse
Written by: Marjane Satrapi,Vincent Paronnaud
Based on the graphic novel by: Marjane Satrapi
Director of Photography: François Girard
Animation Studios: Perseprod, une association, Je Suis Bien Content (Marc Jousset), Pumpkin 3D (Pascal Chevé, Louis Viau)
Animation Director: Christian Desmares
Animation Supervisor: Olivier Bizet
2D Animation Supervisor: Christian Desmares
2D Animation: Damien Barrau, Franck Bonay, Jean-Yves Castillon, Anaïs Chevillard, Patrick Cohen, Odile Comon, Céline Coulibeuf, Antoine Dartige du Fournet, Sandra Derval, Serge Elissalde, Florian Fiebig, Emmanuel Guille, Virginie Hanrigou, Marianne Lebel, Grégory Lecocq, Alice Lia, Charlotte Mazeran, Benoît Meurzec, Damien Millereau, Adeline Monin, Nicolas Pawlowski, Jules Stromboni, Rémi Zaarour
Flash Animation: Stéphanie Delmas, Nilsen Robin
After Effects Animation: François Leroy
Animation Effects Supervisor: Alexis Venet
Animation Effects: Pierre Minoux, Adeline Monin
3D Animation Supervisor: Ahmidou Lyazidi
3D Animation: David Galante, Bruno-Evalie Hélie, Nathalie Mathe
After Effects Compositing Supervisor: Stéphane Roche
After Effects Compositing: Jean-Yves Castillon, Serge Creste, Damien Gaillardon, Jean-Paul Guige, François Leroy, Pierre Minoux
Layout Supervisor: Jing Wang
Layout: David Etien, Frédéric Martin, Guy Quelquejeu
Trace Supervisor: Franck Miyet
Supervising Editor: Stéphane Roche
Editor: François Nabos
Compositing Editor: Stéphane Roche
Art Director: Marisa Musy (Zaza)
Art Department Research Supervisor: Marisa Musy
Scan Supervisor/Colour Design: Marion Crepel
Colour Design: Geneviève Mabire, Lara Bellini, Geraldine Le Moigne, Arnaud Moritz
Toonz Compositing: Marion Crepel, Sylvie Attoresi ‘Toto’, Fabrice Renaudin
Animatic: Stéphane Roche
Laboratory: LTC/Scan Lab
Colour Timer: Christian Dutac
Optical Report: CinéStéréo
Digital Operators: Pierre Madrolles, Rudy Siess
Music Composed and Conducted by: Olivier Bernet
Orchestrations: Olivier Bernet
Music Recording: Amanita
Music Recorded/Mixed by: Stéphane Krieger, Christian Aduriz
Sound Supervision: Merjithur
Voice Recording: Éric Chevallier
Sound/Re-recording Mixer: Thierry Lebon
Re-recording Mixer: Samy Bardet
Sound Editors: Éric Chevallier, Samy Bardet
Foley: Philippe Penot, Jacques Defrance
English-language Version Director: Marjane Satrapi
Consultant: Céline Merrien
Pre-production Consultant: Aziza Ghalila
‘Detection’: Sylvie Gourgner
‘Concision’: Jean-François Ramos
Screenplay Translation: Jodi Vérity, Andrew Vérity
Unit Publicists: Jérôme Jouneaux, Isabelle Duvoisin, Matthieu Rey

Voice Cast
Chiara Mastroianni (Marjane, ‘Marji’ as a teenager/adult)
Catherine Deneuve (Tadji, Marjane’s mother)
Danielle Darrieux (Marjane’s grandmother)
Simon Abkarian (Ebi, Marjane’s father)
Gabrielle Lopes (Marjane as a child)
François Jérosme (Uncle Anouche)
Sophie Arthuys, Jean-François Gallotte, Arié Elmaleh, Mathias Mlekuz, Sacha Alliel, Virginie Antico, Sylvain Audi, Bénédicte Battesti, Hubert Benhamdine, Ninon Brétécher, Jean-Philippe Callet, Idit Cebula, Carlos Chahine, Eric Chevallier, Isabelle Chipot, Jean-Marc Couderc, Fanny Dalle-Rive, Fanny Daurat, Anne Deleuze, Gilles Duval, Stéphane Foenkinos, Marie Gili-Pierre, François Girard, Lesceline Haase, Marc Jousset, Nicolas Leroy, Candide Lopes, Tilly Mandelbrot, Jean-Christophe Menu, Céline Merrien, Charlotte Miquel, Farida Ouchani, Vincent Paronnaud, Françoise Pavy, Emmanuel Payet, Xavier Rigault, Gaspard Robert, Marc-Antoine Robert, Stéphane Roche, Théo Sampaio, Marjane Satrapi, Denis Walgenwitz

France-USA 2007©
96 mins

L’Argent (Money)
Mon 1 May 13:30; Sat 6 May 15:40; Sat 27 May 20:40; Tue 30 May 18:10
The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet)
Tue 2 May 20:40; Sat 6 May 12:30; Mon 22 May 20:45; Thu 25 May 14:30
The Magnificent Ambersons
Wed 3 May 18:10 (+ intro by Geoff Andrew, Programmer-at-Large); Mon 15 May 20:40
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie)
Thu 4 May 20:55; Tue 16 May 20:40; Wed 31 May 18:10 (+ intro)
The River
Fri 5 May 20:45; Mon 8 May 13:20; Sat 13 May 18:10
The Wild Bunch
Sat 6 May 20:10; Sun 14 May 18:00; Mon 29 May 18:00
Sun 7 May 12:50; Sun 14 May 15:00
Le Jour se lève (Daybreak)
Tue 9 May 20:50; Thu 11 May 18:30; Sat 13 May 20:30; Wed 24 May 18:15 (+ intro)
Wed 10 May 18:15 (+ intro); Tue 23 May 18:20; Sat 27 May 18:10
The Big City (Mahanagar)
Fri 12 May 20:30; Sat 20 May 15:00; Sun 28 May 12:50
Still Walking (Aruitemo Aruitemo)
Mon 15 May 14:00 (+ intro); Thu 18 May 18:10; Sun 21 May 15:40; Fri 26 May 20:30
Dance, Girl, Dance
Tue 16 May 18:20; Sat 27 May 16:00
Wed 17 May 18:20 (+ intro by Geoff Andrew, Programmer-at-Large); Fri 19 May 20:30; Mon 29 May 13:40
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Sat 20 May 19:50; Mon 29 May 13:00

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