A Life Behind A Veil, In Black and White

A traditional “joke” about Jews is that we go out to see a movie and have Chinese food on Christmas Day.

So guess what we did today.

Right. We saw a movie and had chinese food. This post (of course) is about the movie. The Chinese food was pretty good as well.

Today, we went out to see Persepolis, which opened today in limited distribution, just in Los Angeles and New York. We actually hit the first show, so we were at the “premiere” screening. It is at very few theatres, being an “art flick”, in French, with English subtitles. It is also animated, primarily in black and white.

That said: Go See It! Make the effort and find a showing. It is worth it.

Persepolis tells the life story of the author, Marjane Satrapi, who was born into a middle-class family in Tehran, Iran. We see her life in Iran as an approximately 9 year old as the regime of the Shah falls, and the people are happy that they might be getting democracy. However, they get something far different than they expect, and we learn how their world has changed. By the time she is 13, Marjane is sent to a French School in Vienna, where she learns that being Iranian isn’t popular, and that she doesn’t quite fit in. We learn of her life and loves as she becomes a young woman, and we see how she misses the Iran of her youth. When she returns, however, Iran is not what it was. Eventually, she moves back to France, leaving her family behind.

My synopsis does not do the story justice. You can find a better synopsis here.

This is not a kids animated movie. This is a heavy story, with death, torture, drug use, and religious fanaticism. The use of animation allows imagery instead of the graphic (unlike, for example, Sweeney Todd, which was heavy on the graphic), and actually serves to enhance the movie and the story telling. However, the PG-13 rating is well deserved.

I found the movie to be very moving (yes, I’ll admit it made me teary-eyed). It shows how one’s home can be so much a part of one’s makeup, and then when circumstances come about that force one to leave in order to be free and be alive… it’s heavy. You also get the view of Iran from the inside, realizing that the bulk of the populace are not religous fanatics: they are people just trying to live their lives, be with their families, just like you and me. We often forget that with what the media tells us. It also makes one realize that “the west” isn’t all sunshine and butterflies either: for foreigners trying to find home, the west often isn’t welcoming… and we certainly don’t help the downtrodden. I think the movie makes you realize that behind all the geopolitical aspects are real people.

This is not a movie for everyone. You need to be ready to sit through 90 minutes of deep material, even though it is animated. But it is well worth it. Persepolis has been nominated for 4 Annie awards (Best Feature, Best Directing, Best Music and Best Writing) and a Broadcast Fim Critics Assn award (Best Animated Feature)… as well as being France’s entry for foreign film at the 2008 Oscars. It has won the Sutherland Trophy at the British Film Institute, and loads and loads of other awards.

In terms of interesting previews: the most interesting one was a film executive produced by Rikki Lake called “The Business of Being Born”. This is a documentary about the birth business in the United States, and she does mean business. It addresses how doctors and nurses often deal with birth as something to be scheduled and treated with drugs, vs. the use of midwives and natural births. It looked fascinating. It opens on January 9, 2008, and I think it will be well worth seeing.

Our next movie, however, also likely deals with babies. nsshere wants to see the Fox Searchlight production Juno, a quasi-art movie about a teen with an unplanned pregnancy, who decides not to have an abortion nor to keep the baby, but to find the right adoptive parents for the baby.