- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

CANNES, France

Iranian-born filmmaker Marjane Satrapi, whose black comedy about growing up under the ayatollahs is infuriating Iran, says Tehran is barking up the wrong tree and she will not return.

With her animated feature “Persepolis” — based on her eponymous comic book best-sellers — lined up as a front-runner for the top Cannes prize, Miss Satrapi’s hard-hitting autobiographical take on Tehran in the 1970s and ‘80s has thrown the spotlight again on Iran.

“It’s not a political film; it’s a universal film touching on events that have occurred in countries right across the world,” she said in an interview.

Tehran disagrees, and yesterday the French Foreign Ministry refuted Iranian claims that the choice of the Satrapi film to run at Cannes was politically biased.

“It was chosen for artistic reasons,” a ministry spokesman said. “It was selected by festival officials, who are not under the authority of the government.”

Iran’s government-run Farabi Cinema Foundation slammed the film as “an unreal picture of the outcomes and achievements of the Islamic revolution,” in a letter to the French cultural attache in Tehran.

“It’s a story about a life,” Miss Satrapi countered. “A film that pleads for love and for peace. After seeing this film, you don’t want to make war — or revolution either.”

One of 22 films competing for the Palme d’Or award on Sunday, the movie looks through the eyes of a girl at events unfolding in Iran from 1978, when she is 8 and the shah is about to be overthrown by the Islamic regime still in place today.

From the effects on ordinary people of the devastatingly long Iran-Iraq war, Islamic moral policing and the heartache of exile, the animated film spans more than a decade of Miss Satrapi’s life.

“Persepolis” shows young boys being offered plastic keys to paradise in return for fighting in the bloody war against Iraq, girls in art class sketching “nudes” wearing chadors, and bearded militia forbidding girls from running in the street — too bottom-wrigglingly suggestive.

Miss Satrapi says the high point is a scene in which, fearing arrest because she is wearing makeup, she points the moral police instead to an innocent bystander, claiming he harassed her.

“The worst reaction in the movie comes from myself; it doesn’t come from the guardians of the revolution,” she says. “The film’s about being true to yourself; it’s about humanism.”

“I really believe that humanism is a word that has lost its power and its meaning and it’s exactly at this time in the history of human beings that we need it more than any other time. We should stop considerations such as manhood and womanhood, of coming from East and West, or this and that religion, and just try to do the best with the imperfections of human beings.”

Asked whether she intended to return to the country she loves, Miss Satrapi says she would not because Iran was not governed by the rule of law.

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