I first discovered Persepolis in Beirut, when I came across the series of comic books on which the movie is based.
Reading Persepolis was an amazing experience; I can easily label it as “Iran’s modern history for dummies”. Watching the movie was even better, for it operates on several levels. On one level it is a very simple and accessible piece of work that even a child can watch and enjoy. It is a highly emotional autobiography that tells the simple story of an Iranian girl growing up in the last years of the Pahlawi’s dynasty in Iran. She witnesses the rise of the Islamic Republic after 1979 and the implementation of the strict Islamic social and cultural code of conduct.
On another level It can be viewed as a very complex work focusing on how psychologically painful the experience of a teenager who is sent to live alone in a country with a very different culture (in 1983, at the age of 14, Satrapi was sent to Austria, by her parents in order to flee the Iranian regime).
The most sophisticated part of the movie is the historical and political angle through which Satrapi tells a vastly ignored part of Iran’s History. Through the experience of her socialist and communist family, from intimidation to imprisonment and killing, she shows how the Iranian Islamic Regime established its legacy by anihilating the Left who was the real avant-garde of the social and political movement that ended the Shah’s reign.
Banning Satrapi’s work in Iran may not be surprising, but banning it in Lebanon has a very different signification. I will not go into a political diatribe to convince my reader that Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy. But simply, this movie and comic books add to the debate about Hezbollah’s role and political ambitions the kind of argumentation the party wants to avoid because it ruins years of efforts to give the very fundamentalist party of god a “modern and tolerant” face.
Those who know about Lebanese politics know for sure how powerful Hezbollah is in certain spheres of the Lebanese Administration, notably the General Security where the committee of censorship sits.
The outright banning of Persepolis is an added clue to the true Hezbollah. But the lesson from the Film is elsewhere, it is for the emerging “Neo-Left” in Lebanon and the Arab World, who picture Hezbollah today as the natural heir to the socialist and nationalist liberation movements of the sixties and seventies. For those “leftists” engaged in a marketing and propaganda campaign on behalf of “the resistant Hezbollah-Damascus-Teheran-Caracas Axis” Persepolis sends a very clear message: Help the fundamentalists to power once again and you will be at the receiving end of their first bullit.
Persepolis won the Jury Prize of Cannes Film Festival (2007), and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in January 2008.