A Film By Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud Based on the Graphic Novel by Marjane Satrapi

Co-winner of the Jury Prize Award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival

Official Selection 2007 Toronto International Film Festival

Official Selection 2007 Telluride Film Festival

Official Closing Night Selection 2007 New York Film Festival

Release Date: 12/25/2007


Persepolis is the poignant story of a young girl in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It is through the eyes of precocious and outspoken nine year old Marjane that we see a people's hopes dashed as fundamentalists take power - forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. Clever and fearless, she outsmarts the "social guardians" and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden. Yet when her uncle is senselessly executed and as bombs fall around Tehran in the Iran/Iraq war, the daily fear that permeates life in Iran is palpable.

As she gets older, Marjane's boldness causes her parents to worry over her continued safety. And so, at age fourteen, they make the difficult decision to send her to school in Austria. Vulnerable and alone in a strange land, she endures the typical ordeals of a teenager. In addition, Marjane has to combat being equated with the religious fundamentalism and extremism she fled her country to escape. Over time, she gains acceptance, and even experiences love, but after high school she finds herself alone and horribly homesick.

Illustration from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Though it means putting on the veil and living in a tyrannical society, Marjane decides to return to Iran to be close to her family. After a difficult period of adjustment, she enters art school and marries, all the while continuing to speak out against the hypocrisy she witnesses. At age 24, she realizes that while she is deeply Iranian, she cannot live in Iran. She then makes the heartbreaking decision to leave her homeland for France, optimistic about her future, shaped indelibly by her past.

Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood (Pantheon, 2003, English version) and Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return (Pantheon, 2004, English version) won widespread acclaim in France, now her home, and around the world. Now, she has co-directed, with Vincent Paronnaud, the animated film version of her memoir.

Illustration from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The title PERSEPOLIS comes from the Persian capital founded in the 6th century BC by Darius I, later destroyed by Alexander the Great. It's a reminder that there's an old and grand civilization, besieged by waves of invaders but carrying on through milennia, that is much deeper and more complex than the current-day view of Iran as a monoculture of fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism.

"I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists," Satrapi says. "I also don't want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten."

Illustration from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The Filmmakers talk about PERSEPOLIS:
Co-Writers and Directors Marjane Satrapi and
Vincent Paronnaud, and Art Director Marc Jousset

Creating a graphic novel is a solitary pursuit, unlike the high-intensity teamwork of filmmaking. For years Marjane Satrapi and fellow comic artist Vincent Paronnaud shared a Paris design studio, occasionally drew together, and worked separately but side-by-side.

"My collaboration with Vincent made the film version of PERSEPOLIS possible," says Satrapi. "It had been four years since I'd written and drawn the books of Persepolis, and I felt the work was finished. It was when I started talking with Vincent about the film project that I realized I didn't want to make a film all by myself, and if I was going to do it with anyone, it should be with Vincent and Vincent alone. He was game for it, and I was excited by the challenge. We come from totally different countries, cultures and backgrounds, yet we've always been on the same wavelength. We worked like madmen on PERSEPOLIS for three years, but we never had a single row, although we were always honest with each other."

Paronnaud, who creates daring comics under the penname Winshluss, had already tried his hand at animated film with two short pieces, made with other artists and with animation veteran Marc Jousset, art director on PERSEPOLIS.

"When she asked me to make PERSEPOLIS with her," says Paronnaud, "I couldn't refuse, I loved the book, and I loved Marjane. Her work has a strong, genuine power; the content is as valuable as the design, and it combines humor and emotion, which is quite rare."

Reconstructing a story from scratch

As Satrapi recalls, "When I was writing the books, I had to remember sixteen years of my life, including things I definitely wanted to forget. It was a very painful process. I dreaded starting the script, and couldn't have done it on my own. The hardest part was the beginning, and distancing myself from the existing narrative. We had to start from scratch, to create something altogether different but with the same material. It's a one-of-a-kind piece."

"For three months," says Parronnaud, "We met every day for three to four hours. Neither of us can type, so we used a pencil because it can be erased. We'd read what had been written, crossing out, rewriting, cutting, etc. We had to strike the right balance between the crucial moments and the insignificant details of everyday life. After a while we forgot about the book and just worked on the script."

Translating graphic abstraction to cinematic movement

Inventing a cinematic language for the memoir was a challenge. Says Satrapi, "People generally assume that a graphic novel is like a movie storyboard, which of course is not the case. With graphic novels, the relationship between the writer and reader is participatory. In film, the audience is passive. It involves motion, sound, music, so therefore the narrative's design and content is very different."

The co-directors drew inspiration from live action cinema far outside the canon of animation: "In fact our sources were live action films," says Paronnaud. "I had seen a lot of Italian comedies because my mother loved them. Marjane is very fond of Murnau and German expressionism, so we drew our inspiration from that and then put together what we both liked. Marjane's book is about family life, so the film was going to be based on a central family theme also. The usual codes in animation didn't seem to fit, so I used movie-style editing, with a great many jump-cuts. Even from an aesthetic viewpoint, we drew our sources from cinematic techniques."

Illustration from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Visual inspiration for stylized realism

The animation style, according to Satrapi, "Could be defined as "stylized realism," because we wanted the drawing to be completely life-like, not like a cartoon. Therefore, unlike a cartoon, we didn't have that much of a margin in terms of facial expressions and movement."

She continues: "I've always been obsessed with the post-war film schools of Italian neo-realism and German expressionism, and soon understood why. In post-WWI Germany, the economy was so devastated that they couldn't afford to shoot films on location, and so they were shot in studios using mood and amazing geometrical shapes. In post-WWII Italy, the same happened, but things turned out the opposite-they shot films in the streets with unknown actors because they had no money. In both schools, you find the kind of hope in people who went through the war and experienced great despair. I am myself a post-war person having lived through the 8-year war between Iraq and Iran. The film is a combination of sorts; of German expressionism and Italian neo-realism. It features very down-to-earth, realistic scenes, and a highly design-oriented approach, with images sometimes bordering on the abstract."

Hundreds of hand-drawn characters

PERSEPOLIS is a hand-drawn work of animation. The co-directors relied on a crew of seasoned animation professionals, including art director Jousset, but Satrapi herself developed and drew every single character-some 600 distinct figures-from the lead characters to crowds of extras. "I drew them all, their fronts and their profiles," explains Satrapi. "Afterwards, the designers and animators drew them from every angle developing their facial expressions and motions."

As Marc Jousset explains, "It was clear that a traditional animation technique was perfectly suited to Marjane's and Vincent's idea of the film. It also seemed logical that Marjane should be able to work with the animators using the tools of her trade, paper and ink."

Illustration from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Jousset continues: "Using only black and white in an animation movie requires a great deal of discipline. From a technical point of view, you can't make any mistakes. As soon as an eye isn't in the right place, or a pupil not perfectly drawn, it shows up straight away on the large screen. It's even more obvious in this particular film since it's not a cartoon with codes, conventions and distortions. We had to develop a specific style, both realistic and mature. No bluffing, no tricks, nothing overcooked. With animation director Christian Desmares, twenty animators worked on the movie.

"Marjane had quite an unusual way of working. Each sequence (1,200 shots) was given to an animator. Marjane insisted on being filmed playing out all the scenes. Given that she's a genuinely talented actress, it was a great source of information for the animators, giving them an accurate approach to how they should work. It was also very encouraging for them that she was so committed and passionate. Usually, in animated movies, directors are rarely so concerned with the day-to-day work on the film."

All told, the film required about 80,000 drawings for around 130,000 images.

The Personal and the Political

Satrapi describes the surreal sensation of looking into a kaleidoscopic mirror: "You can imagine how I felt when I saw my face everywhere, in small, medium and large, as a little girl, a teenager, a young girl, a grown-up, front, back, profile, laughing, vomiting, crying-it was just unbearable! I had to say to myself "It's just a character." It was the same for the other characters because their stories are also real. My grandmother of course, actually existed and lived and died, as did my uncle. I couldn't let emotion get in the way, or else it would have become intolerable for everyone. If they'd seen me with tears in my eyes, they wouldn't have been able to continue with their work."

Says Paronnaud, "Tinkering with somebody else's work is difficult, but this was also somebody's life. Somebody sitting opposite me, somebody I know and love. I could see it was affecting Marjane, so I had to tread carefully, but she was extremely encouraging."

Illustration from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

PERSEPOLIS is equally a passionate statement about the personal and the political. "Marjane is leading a fight," says Paronnaud, "So naturally she wanted to make it into a film. But she's a demanding person, with an honest intellectual purpose. She hopes for people to get a different view of Iran from the one they watch on TV or read in the papers. Furthermore, she wants to address the meaning of exile, and what it means for a young girl to be thrown into the midst of historic events that she cannot comprehend."

For Marjane Satrapi, "It is first and foremost a film about my love for my family. However, if Western audiences end up considering Iranians as human beings just like the rest of us, and not as abstract notions like "Islamic fundamentalists," "terrorists," or the "Axis of Evil," then I'll feel like I've done something. Don't forget that the first victims of fundamentalism are the Iranians themselves."

Illustration from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Note: full transcripts of extended interviews with Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud; cast members Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, and Danielle Darrieux; original score Composer Olivier Bernet; and filmmakers Marc Jousset (Art Director), Pascal Chevet (Animator), and Marc-Antoine Robert and Xavier Rigault (producers), are posted at.

Three Generations of Actresses Talk About PERSEPOLIS:

Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, and Danielle Darrieux

PERSEPOLIS is a film about family, so it's fitting that its three leading ladies are, not quite, but very nearly, a family dynasty of French cinematic glamour. Chiara Mastroianni, whose voice brings to life the teenage and adult Marjane Satrapi, is the daughter of Catherine Deneuve, who plays Satrapi's mother. Danielle Darrieux, who plays Satrapi's grandmother, has played Deneuve's mother so often (most recently in François Ozon's 8 Women) that one could be forgiven for believing that they are truly related.

"The three of us have been building a kind of film mythology, passed down through generations," laughs Darrieux.

Says Mastroianni of her film grandmother, "She's stunning. I can understand why Marjane wanted to work with her. There's a connection between them. Like Marjane, Danielle also has a strong sense of self-mockery and propriety. There's a spark in her eyes, and she always has a positive and inquisitive approach to others."

All three actresses first came to know of Marjane Satrapi through the Persepolis books. As Deneuve explains, "The way she uses her graphic back-and-white visuals is totally surreal and realistic at the same time. I like her spirit. I like her freedom. I like her story, which she tells with wistfulness, humor, and self-mockery. When she asked me to be her mother's voice in the film, I instantly said yes because it was her and because I'd wanted to do a voice for an animated feature for a long time."

Satrapi and Paronnaud decided to record the lead characters' voices before beginning work on the drawings, so the film images could match the actors' voices and emotions. With no visual back-up to rely on, Satrapi read through the script with each actor. Deneuve recalls, "Marjane's script was terrific. It was not only very true to the books, but it also included a genuinely cinematic narrative. We met at the studio, and she played and directed opposite me. She was always there for me, paying close attention. She was very specific, yet gave me a great deal of freedom playing the scenes."

Darrieux, too, enjoyed the liberty of the studio recordings. "I don't like rehearsing much, usually going by instinct, so with Marjane I enjoyed relying on that immensely. Marjane knew exactly what she wanted, I readily did what she asked, and it went very quickly. Later, Marjane and her producers showed me a short excerpt of the film. When I saw the grandmother's face and heard my voice, it was an odd feeling, but I was really surprised. I thought it matched perfectly!

Clearly relishing her character of Marjane's grandmother, Darrieux says, "She's an uninhibited character, who's not afraid of anything. She's politically incorrect and a straight talker. I love talking dirty, so I felt really comfortable with the character! What moved me most was the kindness with which Marjane described her. Quite obviously, her grandmother meant a lot to her."

Chiara Mastroianni faced the challenge of inhabiting the persona of Satrapi herself. "She was wonderful in easing the tension and the embarrassment you naturally feel when you're playing her life out in front of her. This was truly inspiring. When heavy moments came, she'd shrug them off with dirty jokes. When we recorded the last scene with her grandmother, where she tells of how she put Jasmine flowers in her bra, the atmosphere in the studio was wholly different to when we did the scene at school where she meant to beat up the little boy! When you spend time with her, you realize she's vibrant, yet demanding and decent."

Illustration from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.  © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Mastroianni continues: "I admire her freedom. She's not caught up in conventions; she went through so much at a very early age and remains insatiable. She's always eager to learn, and never lectures you. With Marjane, I had the feeling of being a teenager again, but at the same time, she's undoubtedly wise. It's an interesting combination."

Mastroianni portrays the collaboration between the co-directors as equally unique. "They couldn't have managed without each other on this film. They were totally inseparable. They made all the decisions together. They have admiration and respect for each other and are true friends. They're both very demanding, but for good reasons. Ego is never an issue. All that matters is the film."

About the Crew
Marjane Satrapi - Director/Author

Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969. She grew up in Tehran where she attended the Lycée Français (French high school). She then studied in Vienna before she relocated to France in 1994. In Paris, through fellow comic book artists, she was introduced into the Atelier des Vosges, an artist studio which gathered major, contemporary comic book artists. In her first graphic novel, Persepolis 1, published by L'Association in November 2000, Marjane told the story of the first ten years of her life until the overthrow of the Shah regime and the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran war. In Persepolis, published in October 2001, she described the Iraq-Iran war and her teenage years until she left for Vienna at the age of fourteen.

Persepolis 2 dealt with her exile in Austria and her return to Iran. Since then, she has published Embroideries (Broderies) and Chicken with Plums (Poulet aux Prunes). Persepolis is co-directed with Vincent Paronnaud, and is her first feature film.

Vincent Paronnaud - Director

Vincent Paronnaud a.k.a. Winshluss, was born in 1970 in La Rochelle. He is a major underground comic book artist. Together with his friend and collaborator Cizo, he invented the character of "Monsieur Ferraille", the emblematic figure of the comic "Ferraille Illustré", which he co-edited with Cizo and Felder. His solo projects include Super Négra (1999), Welcome to the Death Club and Pat Boon - Happy End (2001). He gained public recognition when he earned a nomination for Smart Monkey in 2004 and for Wizz and Buzz (with Cizo) in 2007 at the Angoulême Comic Book Festival. Winshluss and Cizo have also co-directed two shorts animations: O'Boy What Nice Legs (B&W - 1 min - 2004) Raging Blues (B&W - 6 min - 2003).

Marc Jousset - Art Director

Marc Jousset has directed and produced over 150 animated movies (credits, documentaries, video music, advertising, billboard) and produced 13 shorts films. He has also worked as the script writer and story boarder and background designer for several TV series. In 1996 Jousset started the studio "Je Suis Bien Content" with Franck Ekinci. He served as the art director and executive producer for Persepolis.

Olivier Bernet - Composer

Olivier Bernet is 33 years old and currently lives in Bordeaux, France. Persepolis is Benet's first film score, although he has worked with Vincent Paronnaud prior to Persepolis, as the leader of the duo's band Shunatao. Together they have released 6 albums and will continue their partnership in the future. In addition to Shunatao, Bernet is also part of several other bands, including The Sentimentals, Kiss Kiss Karate Passion and Magnetix.



Chiara MASTROIANNI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marjane (as a teenager and adult)
Catherine DENEUVE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marjane's mother, Tadji
Danielle DARRIEUX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marjane's grandmother
Simon ABKARIAN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marjane's father, Ebi
Gabrielle LOPES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .young Marjane
François JEROSME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Uncle Anouche


WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY . . . . . . .. . . . .Marjane SATRAPI and Vincent PARONNAUD
PRODUCED BY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .. . . . .Marc-Antoine ROBERT and Xavier RIGAULT
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Kathleen KENNEDY
ORIGINAL MUSIC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Olivier BERNET
ART DIRECTOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marc JOUSSET
EDITOR/COMPOSITOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Stéphane ROCHE
ANIMATION COORDINATOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Christian DESMARES
1ST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Denis WALGENWITZ
PRODUCTION DESIGNER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marisa MUSY
TRACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Franck MIYET
ANIMATION ASSISTANT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Thierry PERES
LAYOUT ARTIST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Jing WANG
ANIMATION PRODUCTION MANAGER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Olivier BIZET
SOUND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Thierry LEBON
ANIMATION STUDIO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .PERSEPROD

Persepolis Poster © 2007 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

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