Director plays down politics in Iran cartoon film

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Iranian film director and comic writer Marjane Satrapi sought to play down Iranian protests over her animated movie “Persepolis” on Wednesday, asking audiences to focus on its humanity, not its politics.

From L-R, actress Chiara Mastroianni, directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, actress Catherine Deneuve and actor Simon Abkarian pose during a photocall for their film "Persepolis" at the 60th Cannes Film Festival May 23, 2007. REUTERS/John Schults

The movie, based on Satrapi’s popular French comic books telling of her growing up and being repressed under Islamic rule, drew a letter of protest earlier this week from the government-affiliated Iran Farabi Foundation.

It complained to France for including “Persepolis” in the Cannes Film Festival’s main competition.

“I think (audiences) should look at the human side of the film,” Satrapi, 37, told reporters at a festival conference.

She declined to comment directly about the protest, but did say she accepted any criticism because doing so was a part of living in a culture where she could express her views openly.

“I believe in freedom of expression and freedom of speech,” Satrapi said. “I simply accept that as part of the exposure.”

In the letter, published by several news organizations, the Iran Farabi Foundation said the film “presented an unrealistic face of the achievements and results of the glorious Islamic Revolution in some of its parts.”

Satrapi’s film -- which premiered at the world’s largest film festival on Wednesday and was screened for reporters earlier in the week -- is very personal.

It follows Satrapi as a little girl as she watches the fall of the Shah, who was backed by western countries, principally the United States.

She and her family believe that with the Shah gone, state repression will end, but it only becomes worse in “Persepolis.”

When Satrapi rebels during the period of the Iran/Iraq war, she is sent to live in Austria. When she returns to Iran for a time, things are better, but eventually she finds her female individuality so stifled she flees to France.


Throughout the movie, Satrapi’s personality is shaped by war, government duplicity and male cultural domination. Iran’s rulers are criticized in “Persepolis” but so are western democracies for backing the Shah and supplying weapons of war.

In fact, the main goal of “Persepolis” is simply to tell of a girl’s coming-of-age in a highly volatile society. The movie tells of a person retaining their integrity, and not expressing political opinions, the movie’s producers said.

Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud use a whimsical style of animation and much humor, adding a light touch to what could have been a dark drama, the film’s stars said.

“She deals with very serious subjects in a way that is very lighthearted and serious at the same time,” said Catherine Deneuve, who is the voice of Marjane’s mother in “Persepolis.”

For U.S. audiences, producer Kathleen Kennedy, who helped secure North American distribution for “Persepolis,” called the film, “a wonderful opportunity to be pulled into a very complex society that the U.S. knows little about.”

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