The Iranian embassy is annoyed with the New Zealand film festival for showing Persepolis, an animated film about growing up in Iran during the overthrow of the Shah, the rise of Khomeni and war with Iraq. The embassy feels their revolutionary paradise is not fairly depicted in the film.
I watched Persepolis a couple of weeks ago at the festival guide launch and liked it. People who haven’t read Marjanne Satrapi’s popular and acclaimed comics, upon which it is very closely based will probably enjoy it a lot more. It is very much a historical piece though – Tehran is now a very different city from the place Satrapi grew up in.
(Anyone interested in an introductory book to modern day Iran – which may soon become a very topical subject – should read Jason Elliot’s excellent travel book Mirrors of the Unseen.)
Satrapi grew up in an intellectual communist middle class family in Tehran. Her parents were active politically and marched against the US backed dictatorship of Reza Pahlevi – the revolution in Iran was originally a popular left-wing movement supported by the Soviet Union; it was hijacked by Ruhollah Khomeini, a charismatic Islamic leader who despised the godlessness of the Soviets. The United States is not the only country to make blindingly stupid miscalculations when intervening in the middle east.
Satrapi eventually found her way to Paris where she met David Beauchard, the founder of L’Association, an influential movement in European comics. Beauchard’s masterwork is l’Ascension du Haut Mal, translated into english as Epileptic – I think its a LOT better than Persepolis, but its still a bit obscure outside of France. If you are even slightly interested in comics then its very much worth seeking out.
Satrapi’s work was heavily influenced by Beauchard – the animation in the movie is much closer to Beauchards intricate, sophisticated style than Satrapi’s simpler illustrations.
Interestingly enough, the first of the Persepolis books is dedicated to Paul Wolfowitz. Yes, that Paul Wolfowitz. Satrapi met him through his contacts with Iranian exile groups. Even as we speak he’s probably explaining to Dick Cheney that most people in Iran are sophisticated french speaking former communists who will welcome Israeli war planes with open arms.