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Marjane Satrapi's artistic and political activism, highlighted in the French Media amidst Iran's post-election turmoil

Photocomposition © DK



"I'm an artist not a politician. Politicians have very easy answers

to complicated questions. I have very complicated answers

to what they consider easy questions."


-         Marjane Satrapi (about the underlying message in her

Award Winning film Persepolis)



After the International success of her animated movie Persepolis, an adaptation of the  graphic story of the same name, Iranian born French filmmaker and illustrator Marjane Satrapi had vowed not to get involved in any further political activism or controversial debate about her native country. One of the major reasons was that she claimed not to be a spokes person for any particular Iranian generation or political demand given that she did not consider herself as a politician but only as an artist entitled to her own subjective views and opinions. Her very first breakthrough into Film was an unexpected international success which was awarded in Cannes in 2007 amidst calls of boycott from her native country's cultural and political authorities who actually managed to oust her film from several Asian film festivals on false grounds that her subversive film insulted Iranians and gave an inaccurate depiction of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as well as of the theocratic regime that has been in Power since. Such unfounded attacks by the Islamic Republic against the film actually turned out as good publicity and benefited to its international success generating even further curiosity in both the story and the author behind it to the dismay of the Theocratic regime's blind censors ...

© Marjane Satrapi, l'Association


Not only did the film collect numerous awards worldwide, but it was also a Box Office Hit that paved its way to being nominated in the foreign film category at the 2008 Oscar's® representing France. But the strain of a year long marathon promotion of the film worldwide as well as Satrapi's intention to work on her next project: the motion picture adaptation of her other comic book "Chicken with Plums" had considerably reduced the number of her press interviews and media presence in recent months. However the current dramatic events that took place in her native country following the Iranian elections naturally drew her back into the French and European Medias where she was to take an active part in supporting what has since become known as the "Green Revolution". (**)



Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Marjane Satrapi read out election results confirming Mir Hossein Moussavi victory based on original official report that was subsequently modified by the IRI's minister of interior. European Commission in Brussels, Belgium
©Daily Life & photocomposition ©DK


On 16th of June, 2009, Invited by European Green Party Deputy and Iconic figurehead of France's May 68 Revolution Daniel-Cohn Bendit, Marjane Satrapi and fellow colleague, Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, joined their voice at the European Parliament to denounce what they called a "COUP" conducted by Iran's President and Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against the Popular Vote of the Iranian People at Large. In front of the International Press conveyed to European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, Marjane Satrapi translated into English, Mohsen Makhmalbaf's speech delivered in Persian and in which he explained that he was chosen as official spokesman by the unhappy candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi held in Iran.  Both insisted on the electoral fraud that took place following the Iranian Presidential elections on June 12th, 2009.




"Brandishing an authentic document which both Satrapi and Cohn-Bendit presented to the audience as published by the Iranian ministry of Interior prior to the fraudulous announcement, they proved that Mr. Moussavi had not only won with a comfortable margin of 19 million votes but that his rival Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was ranked third after reformist candidate Mehdi Karoubi with only 5 million votes, thus contradicting the official pole that the latter was re-elected as President with 62 % of the votes."


Left to Right : Green Party European Deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Marjane Satrapi, Mohsen Makhmalbaf at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium

©Daily Life


Beyond the political significance of this Joint Conference it should be noted that for the first time in 30 years an exiled Iranian director of the Diaspora and an Iranian filmmaker from Iran's current native film community were to publicly appear together in front of the international press. Thus, proving if needed, not only their mutual admiration for one another but also their belonging to the same film and Arts community. This is all the more remarkable and brave given that Marjane Satrapi's works have been subject to heavy censorship by the Islamic Republic of Iran and that Mohsen Makhmalbaf has chosen self exile to France quite recently in a sign of protest against the working conditions and lack of respect for his works by the Iranian government's cultural ministry. An Irony given that Mohsen Makhmalbaf and his colleague friend Abbas Kiarostami (currently shooting a film "Certified Copy" with French Star Juliette Binoche in Italy) are considered by international and Iranian critics as the two major pioneers of Iran's highly respected New Wave Cinema.



 Marjane Satrapi illustrated American Rock Star Iggy Pop's latest Album Préliminaires a musical Tribute to French Avant Garde culture and music.
Iggy Pop's voice dubbed for
Satrapi's Uncle
in the US Release
in Satrapi's
Persepolis movie  
© EMI & © L'Association


In an emotional but firm tone Marjane Satrapi quoted Makhmalbaf's translated statement in conclusion to the Q&A to the press conference as follows:


"To acknowledge the legitimacy of Mr. Ahmadinejad would mean not recognizing the legitimacy of the Iranian people. We need your support and ask you to stand beside the Iranian people who wish nothing less than peace, the possibility to dream and define their place as a great nation within the international community." She added "Tomorrow will be too late ! ..." 


 LEFT COLUMN: French Philosopher Bernard Henri Levy Joins Marjane Satrapi during a recent demonstration in Paris against brutal suppression by Ahmadinejad's government of Iranian protestors and Green voters. (***)

RIGHT COLUMN: "Danny Le Rouge" aka Daniel Cohn-Bendit iconic figurehead of France's May 68 Revolution as well as European ecologist "Green Party" Deputy invites filmmakers Marjane Satrapi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf in
Brussels, Belgium

to speak out against the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad Electoral COUP.
Photocomposition © DK & ©François Lafite & © Daily Life



French Media like the international one took an early interest in the Iranian Presidential elections and has been greatly impressed by what has become known as the "Twitter Revolution" in reference to the trend amongst Iranian protestors to inform the outside world on what is taking place in Iran and to fill in the vacuum created by the Iranian government's decision to expel all foreign journalists from Iran during these nation wide protests.


French Correspondent Manon Loiseau made an impressive report (which was aired on French TV and also Al Jazeera English) on the short aftermath of the Elections and during the protests which were violently suppressed by the

Government Police and Bassiji militia



The whereabouts of a French University teacher Clotilde Reiss who has been arrested on absurd grounds of "spying for foreign powers" has deeply shocked French public opinion. It has been heartwarming for many to see that the Iranian Diaspora took a staunch stand in support for the French woman's predicament and vastly demonstrated in solidarity in Paris and with full support by prominent members of the Iranian Diaspora community including Mrs. Satrapi, the photographer Reza Deghati. Similarly thanks to the tireless actress Pierre Schapira, Karim Lahidji, Anne Hidalgo, Dominique Voynet , Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Samira Makhmalbaf, Isabelle Giordano,  Atiq Rahimi, Bernard-Henri Levy, Denis Lavant, Vincent Lindon,  Jack Lang, Pourya Amirshahi, Nicole Guedj, Corinne Lepage, Bariza Khiari, Marek Halter, Philippe Lioret, Nicolas Hulot, Rachida Brakni, Eric Cantona, Sandrine Bonnaire, Zabou Breitman, Anh Dao Traxel.


Their common slogans have been:


1.    An Immediat Halt to the brutalities against the Iranian People

2.    The Immediate release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience

3.    The Judgment of those who have committed these killings of peaceful protestors

4.    The annulment of the elections

5.    And the Organization under international supervision of Free and Fair Democratic elections


Widely covered in the Press these demonstrators have vowed to continue this struggle in support of their compatriots back home and regardless of the regime's threats of a clamp down on the demonstrators on grounds of foreign meddling and manipulation in Iran's internal affairs.


"This is first and foremost an issue of respecting the people's choice" say's Satrapi. "It is the Iranian un-elected leadership who is accountable to the Iranian nation and not the contrary"


In addition what is becoming known  as "La Revolution Verte Iranienne" aka "The Green Revolution" in the French Press one prominent French voice has given an extra boost to this Iranian Solidarnosc movement in the making ... That of French philosopher and writer Bernard Henri Levy who has been particularly outspoken and supportive of the Iranian people's struggle.





TOP And BOTTOM: Bernard Henri Levy at Paris Demo
Denounces Ahmadinejad's Coup


On the sidelines of her political activism, Satrapi seems to have been particularly prolific in her eclectic interests and artistic endeavors. She has even made an entrance in the music arena by composing a song entitled "Poney Rose" for French Pop Star and Actress Arielle Dombasle ( who also happens to be Bernard Henri Levi's wife) in her latest album "Glamour A Mort" aka "Glamorous to the Death". The song was co-written with another French iconoclastic singer and composer Philippe Katrine. It aims at being a tribute to the Comic Book genre with references to comic book heroes and their super natural powers and adventures. Bridging American underground Culture with its French counterparts, Satrapi has also designed and illustrated American Pop Star Iggy Pop's latest album entitled "Préliminaire",
a Musical Tribute to French 'Avant Garde" Culture and songs. It should be noted that Iggy Pop did one of the voiceovers for the English Version of Satrapi's animated film Persepolis.   



As a Prolific artist, Marjane Satrapi has been making headlines, in the French Media, as the novice but promising songwriter of Arielle Dombasle's (wife of Philosopher Bernard Henri Levy) latest album. She has also found the time to appear in a cameo role (which is also her very first acting role ever) in a Teenage comedy Les Beaux Gosses before working on her next movie as director: A screen adaptation of her other comic book Chicken with Plums.
photocomposition ©DK


However the most interesting new adventure for Satrapi has been her new film project based on another of her successful comic books "Chicken with  Plums".


It is story of her great-uncle, a celebrated Iranian musician who gave up his life for music and love. Set in Tehran in 1958, Nasser Ali Khan, one of Iran's most revered tar players, discovers that his beloved instrument is irreparably damaged. Even though he tries, he cannot find one to replace it, one whose sound speaks to him with the same power and passion with which his music speaks to others. In despair, he takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all its pleasures, closing the door on the demands and love of his wife and his four children. Over the course of the week that follows, his family and close friends attempt to change his mind and save him from depression but Nasser Ali slips further and further into his own reveries: flashbacks and flash-forwards (with unexpected appearances by the likes of the Angel of Death and Sophia Loren) from his own childhood through his children's futures. And as the pieces of his story slowly fall into place, we begin to understand the reason's behind his decision to give up on life.


Currently in Pre-Production the Screen adaptation of Satrapi's comic book "Chicken with Plums" is set to be filmed on location at the Legendary German Film Studio: Babelsberg. Unlike Persepolis, this movie will feature live action actors and real film sets and is due for release in 2010/2011. It will be co-directed with Vincent Parronaud with whom she also worked on the animated film Persepolis.
photocomposition ©DK



Chicken with Plums has all the ingredients that made the success of her previous books Persepolis and Embroideries. One recognizes her dark humor, unique insight, and generosity to render this emotional tale of life and death, and the courage and passion it demands. Ironically in unfolding the poignant story of one man's depression and gradual decline, it also manages to pay an unconventional tribute to her own uncle's artistic endeavors and honesty amidst the historical, social and political dilemmas of his time.


The critical and box office success of Persepolis certainly explains why Satrapi has been keen to work on another film with co-director and associate Vincent Parronaud. What makes this upcoming project interesting is that they aim to make a real feature film in Live Action and real actors playing the parts onscreen unlike for their previously successful animated picture. This makes the challenge and the excitement even more daunting all the more that the two novice but genius directors will benefit from the facilities and technical know how of one of Europe's legendary film studios that of Munich's Babelsberg Studio. Not only have these studios made the reputation of German Expressionist Cinema with such classics as Fritz Lang's Metropolis or Marlene Dietrich's debut in Joseph Von Sternberg's The Blue Angel (1930) but they have also become one of Europe's most competitive studios which Hollywood Productions (such as Brian Singer and Tom Cruise's Valkirie) are keen to use when shooting in Europe.


Currently in Pre-Production Chicken with Plums will certainly be shot with careful scrutiny and in secrecy given the high expectations of Satrapi's fans after the international success of her first directorial debut with co-director Parronaud. However given that it will not be an autobiography it will also give her more latitude and freedom with the subject. Interestingly Satrapi also made a screen debut as an actress in a teenage comedy  Les Beaux Gosses in which she plays a cameo role for fun. Could this suggest that she may also play a role in her own movie or undertake a new artistic departure this time as a full time actress ? Who knows ? ...


What is certain however, is that Marjane, has proven to her fan's greatest joy to be always where they expect her the least. As such she has remained True to herself and the free spirited outspoken Iranian persona which has earned her a well deserved international admiration and acclaim.










Author's Notes :

(*) Marjane Satrapi Official Fan Page on Facebook 

I Must Go Home to Iran Again by Marjane Satrapi (New York Times)


(***) The Swan Song of the Islamic Republic: French Philosopher Bernard Henri Levy Sees a Turning Point in Iran's History (Huffington Post)



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About the Author:
Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is also contributes to OCPC Magazine in LA/US and to the London Based IC Publications The Middle East Magazine and Persian Heritage Magazine.

... Payvand News - 7/15/09 ... --

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