Thursday, June 18, 2009

Movie: Persepolis

I can see why this movie was nominated for an academy award, and quite frankly I think it would have beaten any other animated film I've seen in recent memory except Ratatouille and Wall-E....the first of which Persepolis had the misfortune of going up against in their first year. But just because it didn't win, does not in any way reduce from its excellence. It is still extremely worth watching in its own right.

The movie is basically about Marjane (a real person) and her complex (slightly fictionalized) relationship with her country. The first part of the film shows her as a little girl growing up during the 1979 Iranian revolution. It then shows the haunting conditions that the people lived in during the Iran-Iraq war. She then goes to live in Austria as an exile by her parents who are afraid her outspoken opinions will get her killed. Finally, it shows her returning to Iran after a period of homelessness, reuniting with her family but ultimately still having to leave because of the harsh conditions there.

It is a film about identity, about coming of age, and about larger questions of right and wrong. The film puts a human face on the oppression that the people suffer there, and shows that the Iranians are not by any means a monolithic culture of "Death to America" chanting lunatics.

In fact, as an American familiar with history, the most striking thing about this film was what was entirely absent (at least as I saw it.) There were no stinging barbs against America. There were generic criticisms against "the west" comparing and contrasting its strengths vs. that of her home land (ie for example they don't beat the crap out of you for not wearing a veil.) And if you knew your history, you could still see the shadows of it in the effects of the Shah and the Iran/Iraq war. You could also see it for the positive in the black market music tapes that everyone wanted to have. But it was hidden, and not blatant.

Sometimes, it isn't about you. "You" in this case being about America. This is a film about Marjane, her family and ultimately her relationship with her society and how to deal with it. And it is wonderful.

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