UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy Everett Collection/CP Images


Director Marjane Satrapi animates her memories of growing up in Iran

By Patricia Ingold

France: French with subtitles
Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, starring the voices of Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni and Danielle Darrieux.
(2.4.7. Films)

Growing up is hard enough, but try coming of age in the shadow of an oppressive government. Persepolis is director Marjane Satrapi’s childhood memoir of life in Iran during the rule of the Shah and later the Islamic Republic. Based on Satrapi’s own graphic novels, this engrossing animated film for adults communicates in stark black-and-white images, illustrating her life story with powerful silhouettes of war, execution and political unrest.

The sassy young Marjane lives with her parents and grandmother in Tehran, and counts Bruce Lee and Che Guevara among her heroes. God, whom she later rejects in favour of Karl Marx, occasionally visits her at bedtime. Her attentive parents are politically active, but having endured the imprisonment of two family members, their primary concern is to keep Marjane safe. The Satrapi family’s hopes for a freer society are crushed when the Islamic Republic proves to be more oppressive than the Shah’s previous regime. As she grows older, Marjane resents the headscarf required for females, challenges her teachers and has so many close calls with Islamic authorities that her parents send her to safety in Vienna.

But here’s where the politics don’t really matter. Aside from its depiction of a loving family and smart observations about adolescence, Persepolis explores the role of cultural identity in the universal quest for happiness. Marjane is free in Vienna, but she bears a different kind of oppression in the denial of her Iranian heritage. It leaves painful psychological scars.

That’s not to say Persepolis is humourless — far from it. Wise Grandma has many fine moments, but her reaction to the 1950s horror film Godzilla is her funniest. And whether she’s buying illegal ABBA cassettes on the street or pouring forbidden beverages down the toilet, Marjane is a total charmer. Persepolis will speak volumes to those who share Satrapi’s history, but there’s plenty for the rest of us to appreciate. Brave Marjane is the rebel and the misfit in us all.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image