(Note: This interview was originally conducted back in October when Persepolis was screening at the New York Film Festival. We are publishing it now to coincide with the film's theatrical release this week.)
Based on the popular graphic novel, Persepolis tells the story of a young girl coming of age during the Islamic Revolution. The film was France's selection for the best foreign language Oscar, and Persepolis was just recently nominated for a best foreign language Golden Globe. Originally written by Marjane Satrapi (based on her own life growing up), the brilliant adaptation was penned by Satrapi and her best friend Vincent Paronnaud, both of whom also directed.
On screen and in the books, Marjane comes off as a lively gal full of questions and good-natured spirit. In real life, she's exactly the same way; she speaks fast, with passion and brutal honesty, and makes sure to remind you that she's an artist first and foremost. Cinematical sat down with both Satrapi and Paronnaud shortly after France announced Persepolis was their Oscar submission, and what follows is our conversation. Keep in mind their accents are thick (Paronnaud spoke only in French, which was then translated for me by Satrapi), and so the transcription is a bit rough around the edges.
Cinematical: Congrats on being selected by France as their submission for a best foreign language Oscar. How does that feel?
Marjane Satrapi: Well, it was incredible. Out of the fact that you're always happy you're movie is selected, it's very nice. It also means this border -- this line between who is French and who is not -- it becomes more international in a way. If you live in a country, you can come from a different background and still be French. Which I think is a very good thing. In this time of life when everyone is extremely nationalist, and you know, is going back to the roots, it's very archaic in a way to have countries deciding that even if a movie doesn't happen in their country, it can come from their country. This is a very good thing.
Cinematical: How did the graphic novel originally come about? Why the decision to write about your life in that form?
MS: It's not so much about my life, you know, I use myself as a basis to talk about the other one. If I didn't use myself, it would become like a political or a sociological or a historical statement, and I'm none of that. I'm just one person, and you see what I saw. It's not a statement. This is an artistic work. The graphic novel form became an obvious choice because words are not enough for me. I love to use the image -- ya know, I make art school. And why not? So yeah, it was an obvious choice.