Persepolis and the Iranian Revolution

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Dean K. Myers
THL 357
Research Project
2,421 words
Persepolis and the Iranian Revolution
Persepolis was made in 2007. The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name. Persepolis is directed by Marjane Satrapi. The story is derived from her own personal experiences growing up during the Iranian Revolution (also called the Islamic Revolution) in Tehran, Iran. Included will be an in-depth analysis of the factors that caused the Revolution as well as an accounting of conditions in Iran during that era. A brief comparison of the current situation within Iran and how it is connected to the Iranian Revolution is also necessary.

Persepolis is loosely based on the life of Satrapi. Lauded over by celebrated critics known for their analytical reviews, like Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden of the New York Times, and David Ansen of Newsweek, who stated Persepolis “Isn’t like any animated film you’ve ever seen.” I concur with his sentiment. Also, Persepolis won four awards, including the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Freedom of Expression Award given by the National Board of Review, and the Best Animated Feature Award presented by both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Interestingly it was also a nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film by the Golden Globes, and an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature. This broad range of categories is what initially enticed me to consider this as a possible research project. What kind of film can garner this much attention, not to mention win and be nominated for such a variety of awards? Persepolis truly fits this bill. The animation, all done by hand, gives it a timeless quality which will make this a treasure for generations to come, or at least those concerned with history. Even though animated, this movie is the polar opposite of a Disney film. There is no happy ending. Most surprising about this film is the exacting detail and the connection to factual events. The story of this young girl glides smoothly through the transitive stages of life in Iran during the Revolution. Knowing nothing about the Iranian Revolution, anybody can watch this film and have a working knowledge, not only of the outcomes of the Revolution, but specific transitions from one stage to the next. The audience learrs the impact of the events that shaped this girl’s life and thinking. One must keep in mind the Iranian Revolution was particularly harsh to all women, a characteristic of Fundamental Islamic movements. This film gives her a particularly singular insight most Muslim women from the era simply do not have the chance to present. A movie like this is not typically made, considering the format (animation) and the subject matter.

Growing up during the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979, Marjane Satrapi understands all too well the hardships suffered by the Iranian people. Her story is that of the singular existence of her own life as shaped by the events of the Revolution. To understand Satrapi’s story, one must understand the background of Iran. The movie begins a few years before the Pre-Iranian Revolution era, before the collapse of the royal monarchy of the Shah. For hundreds of years before the Revolution, the Pahlavi family held the throne in Iran. The Shii Ulama, however, has always held influence among Iranians, especially the disenfranchised uneducated classes. Since the reign of the Safavid dynasty in 1501, Shii clerics have widely given judgment on all matters covered by Sharia law. Many matters fall under the heading of what the Western World deems political. Sharia law, and the Shii clerics in Iran, have long been against Western imposition. According to Nikki Keddie in the Iranian Revolution and the Islamic Republic they have used their collective power to start war with Russia in 1826, ended economic concessions held by a British subject in 1872, broken a British...
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