Marjane Satrapi

'Persepolis' inspired by director's life in Iran

In relating a young woman’s experiences growing up in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the black-and-white animated feature “Persepolis” doesn’t exactly mince words. Neither does Marjane Satrapi, whose life inspired both the film and her bestselling series of graphic novels on which it’s based.

“I come from a country where a woman is worth half a man,” she says before slyly turning the assumption on its head: “I never thought I had one leg less just because I was a woman.”

Not surprisingly, Iranian officials have lambasted the film’s unflattering portrayal of their country and decried its warm reception at Cannes, where Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud won a jury prize. Satrapi understands why some critics want to tar “Persepolis” with an ideological brush even though she disagrees.

“It’s not a tract. A tract, you read it and then you throw it away. I’m not teaching lessons to people.” Yet if there is a message to be gleaned from “Persepolis,” it’s that “human beings are human beings. Let’s look at each other as human beings before looking at the frontiers of religion and culture and East and West.”

Now living in Paris, with an ardent following and an astonishingly varied career as an artist, the 37-year-old filmmaker has made peace with the volatility of her past and the unpredictability of her future.

“When I jump into the water, I think, ‘Shit, I don’t know how to swim.’ But the challenge of exploring some artistic domain I don’t know about — my whole life has been about it.”

Vocation: “To be a little bit less stupid and learn a little bit more every day.”

Recent breakthrough: Co-directed fest hit “Persepolis” from her own graphic novel.

Role model: “Salvador Allende. But I don’t want to be a politician. Being an artist is hard enough.”

Career mantra: “To be curious and surprised and to learn.”

What’s next: Live-action feature with Vincent Paronnaud.

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