Satrapi blasts Iran’s ‘Persepolis’ protest

Author says dispute has blown up out of proportion

Forget the battle of Thermopylae. Iranian film execs are staging their own battle of “Persepolis.” Farabi Cinema Foundation, the country’s government-affiliated film org, sent a letter of protest to the French cultural attache in Tehran about the film’s selection in Cannes ahead of its official screening in competish.

Animated pic is based on Marjane Satrapi’s best-selling graphic novels about a young girl growing up in Tehran around the time of the Iranian revolution. In the letter Farabi managing director Alireza Rezadad accused “Persepolis” of presenting “an unreal picture of the outcomes and achievements of the Islamic revolution.”

Satrapi, who co-helmed pic along with Vincent Paronnaud, faced down some heated questioning at the Wednesday press confab over the affair from irate Iranian journalists, one of whom quizzed her openly about why she was refusing to speak to the Iranian press.

“That is not the problem. I simply didn’t want to nourish this dispute,” responded Satrapi. “It has blown up out of proportion and I don’t want to add fuel to the fire. I accept criticism. I believe in freedom of expression and speech.”

Satrapi was backed up by exec producer Kathleen Kennedy, who has helped secure U.S. distribution for pic through Sony Pictures Classics.

“That a country like Iran is defined by extremism in the U.S. is unfair,” Kennedy said. “Marjane has opened up a channel of communication.”

The brouhaha over “Persepolis” has been exacerbated by the total lack of Iranian pics in official selection for the second year running. While Satrapi’s tale is based in Iran, the dialogue is almost entirely in French and pic is technically listed as a French production thanks to coin from Gaul-based 2.4.7 Films. Dreamachine is handling international sales.

The furor over WB’s “300” earlier this year — when an online petition protesting the depiction of Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae as deformed monsters garnered tens of thousands of signatures worldwide — has also left some in the Iranian film biz feeling touchy.

“The letter was actually about the lack of Iranian films in Cannes,” said Amir Esfandiari, Farabi’s head of international affairs. “If they’re going to select a film against Iran, we can protest why the festival committee didn’t select a film from Iran itself.”

Opinion was divided among some other Iranian execs, though.

“I believe ‘Persepolis’ is a good movie and if I was a member of the selection committee I would have chosen it as well,” said one leading Iranian producer who insisted on anonymity. “As for the Iranian films, the quality of films has not been that high this year. However, we cannot deny that every film festival, whether its Cannes or Tehran’s Fajr, has its own policies and these can be influenced by politics.”

Away from the politics, Satrapi disclosed an English-language version of “Persepolis” is being prepped ahead of its U.S. release. Catherine Deneuve will return to voice the mother, with Gena Rowlands and Satrapi herself providing the voice of the grandmother and little girl, respectively.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show premiere,

    Cara Delevingne Talks Immigration, Taylor Swift's Battle With Scooter Braun

    Cara Delevingne, whose faerie character in “Carnival Row” finds herself washed ashore as a refugee in a foreign land, said she was immediately drawn by the show’s fantastical take on issues of immigration and assimilation. “It’s a cause that I have been involved in for a long time,” Delevingne told Variety at the premiere of [...]

  • John Travolta, Fred Durst. John Travolta,

    John Travolta Recalls Fans Breaking Into His House: 'I Was Scared the First Time'

    Nobody can accuse John Travolta of not being gracious to his fans, whether it’s an autograph, a selfie or, you know, a home invasion or two. “I’ve only had two people that actually invaded my house,” Travolta told Variety at the premiere of “The Fanatic” at the Egyptian Theater on Thursday night. “They were just [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • 50 Cent Power S6 Premiere

    50 Cent, Snoop Dogg & Trey Songz 'Power' Up New York City for Massive Season 6 Premiere

    “Power” is entering its final season, but you would never know if you walked by Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on Tuesday night. Starz pulled out all the stops for its ratings powerhouse “Power,” throwing a massive premiere event, complete with a full-length concert at Madison Square Garden from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and a [...]

  • Diane Warren'Late Night' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Songs of Hope to Honor Diane Warren, Marc Shaiman, Boi-1da, More at 15th Annual Event

    Cancer research and treatment center City of Hope today announced the initial lineup of presenters and honorees who will celebrate the song and songwriter at its 15th annual Songs of Hope event. Among the music and entertainment industry VIPs in attendance will be veteran executive and producer Clive Davis, producer Boi-1da (Drake, Kendrick Lamar), award-winning [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content