It could happen here

I just saw Persepolis, and I am in awe.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, you need to check out either the Graphic Novels by Marjane Starpi by that same name or the 2007 Oscar nominated film (the one I am talking about right now). I read the books before and just saw the movie yesterday, and the movie has literally blown my mind. Filmed in Pencil-drawn black and white animation, the movie takes us into the story of Marjane during her childhood as the Shah is about to fall, through living with the Aftermath of the Iranian revolution and the newly founded Islamic regime. The animation-which is an odd choice in the age of 3D generic crap- is really what makes this film special, especially that its dark feel adds to the stark brutality of the scenes of violence or its aftereffects. The use of black and white and shadows only  gives Persepolis the feel and quality of film noir. When its dark, its the stuff of nightmares, especially for someone like me, but when its humorous, it is silly, lighthearted and uplifting; such are the contradictions of this film. I mean, this is the kind of film that is austere in many ways and yet boasts a
sequence in which the heroine sings “Eye of the Tiger” in broken
English. How could you not love that? (Also, the dream sequence between Marjane, God and Marx, well, that's the stuff of greatness).

The movie chronicles Satrapi's efforts to reconcile the Iran she loves with a country upended by war and extremism, and it is a tribute to one young woman's stubborn resilience and a
reminder that people are people, regardless of how their governments
may want them to behave, and how people inherently understand the essence of evil presented to them by those ruling them, even if they do share the same or similar beliefs to them. I literally cringed at the scene where Marjane's maid was crying while holding the key the authorities gave to her 14 year old boy, telling him that it's the "Key to Heaven" if he choses to join the army and die a martyr, because I can see this getting deployed here, easily, if for whatever reason we are ruled by Islamists who might feel like starting a war with Israel and we started to lose badly. What's even scarier, I can see it working.

But if there is one thing that did break my heart upon viewing the movie for a second time, it's the assurances of Marjane's great Marxist Uncle, as the revolution stops being about getting rid of the Shah and starts slowly but surely become about installing a far worse theocratic regime. I could see every single marxist or leftist friend I know here who fights for the right of the MB and who believes himself to be in the same boat with them sitting just like him in a chair, re-assuring everyone that there is "no need to worry. It will get better. Half of the country is illiterate. It's normal and natural for them to vote for islamic rule", until the very next scene, where the new regime decided that they need to get rid of all the other enemies of the old regime, and arrested the man again, only executing him this time. And while I might think of those friends of mine as naive, idealistic or misguided, I wouldn't ever want them dead. But then again, I don't have the audacity or the arrogance of ever claiming to represent what God wants us to be like. Even my Ego has its limits.

The question of the movie becomes immediately that of: What does one do in such a situation? Marjane's family is obviously well-off, educated, westernized and mostly secular, something that I can relate to greatly, and they find themselves suddenly surrounded by uneducated bearded men who believe in their absolute moral authority to do as they damn well please, no matter what the consequences- even if the consequences are the destruction of a country. What does one do in such a situation? The obvious solution – to stay away from Iran, or whatever your respective country may be – isn't easy, and the movie emphasizes that above all else. The
predominant theme of Persepolis is not war or repression but the pull
of home, no matter one's location. That home can be a state of mind, and that it follows you everywhere. And this rings true to me. As much as I am horrified of the direction my country is taking, I can't find myself able to leave it, even when presented the opportunity last year by a reader I am very grateful to. I love this country, I think it's beautiful, and I believe it to be mine. Why would I ever leave it to those who only see it as some part of a greater empire, whether Arabic or Islamic? The more and more you deal with Islamists, the less scary they get, because you realize that you are facing the morally and intellectually bankrupt whose only weapon is fear. But they are such cowards themselves, that they can't ward off or face off against anyone who stands up to them without threatening them outwards with violence. And if that day comes and they rule this land, well, I have a feeling that they will have to kill me and thousands and thousands like me, because we won't shut up and they will have no answer than that provided via a sword. There will be blood, no two ways about it.

Thank God we are not there..

…yet! 

Comments

  1. Olive Picker says:

    I have read the graphic novels. Heart-breaking indeed.

  2. This is so exactly like Germany in 1930.

    Many did leave, but millions died. Violent thugs on one side, versus Marxists and Jews on the other. Imperialist thugs.

  3. I didn’t see the film but read the book. From time to time as a graphic novel is published that reminds you just how good comics can be and why you read them in the first place, Persepolis is one of those comics. Like Art Spiegelman’s Maus it tells a huge story in tiny pictures.
    Persepolis is a very timely novel for today. The book excludes no one and doesn’t place judgements on any particular group, though opinions are voiced. This is not a story of who was right and who gained the mose, or who suffered tragically. On the contrary, Persepolis is a novel of the importance of being aware of ourselves and understanding the consequences of change.

  4. Marjane Satrapi is a strange person according to the site of “Iran resist”, a pro- Sha site. Have a look at their investigation on this too “clean” woman :

    http://www.iran-resist.org/article3811

  5. Some parts of the movie reminded of the Venezuelan revolution, realizing that they are sisters, as Chavez once said.

  6. SM-

    I noted on your blog about a year ago I felt Egypt could be the next Iran…

    Unfortunately…I still feel that way

  7. I agree totally, the movie add something to the books. Very poetic and beautiful and extremely powerful too.

    The attachment to one’s country is more the the harshness of every day life. Marjane Satrapi’s father mentions too that the jobs that would wait for them if they emigrated would be taxi driver and cleaning person. Bleak perspective indeed.

    I love the grandmother. What she said to Marjane Satrapi on the eve of her departure is great : “During your life, you will find many stupid people. If they hurt you, think that they are driven by their stupidity. It will prevent you from answering to their evilness. Nothing is worse than bitterness and revenge. Keep your own dignity and integrity”.

    Superbe!

  8. Adrian from Denmark says:

    Some shots from the film : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nRmfivlUj0

    Those that are interrested in the middleeast should all see the film or read the books, ’cause it gives a great insight in the society – and that kid is soooo cute :-D

  9. “Why would I ever leave it to those who only see it as some part of a greater empire, whether Arabic or Islamic? ”

    Well, this Egyptians sure as hell doesn’t! And unlike you, those people DO scare me.

    I know you’re convinced of an Islamist take over…but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not too late.

    Consider this:
    Mubrak’s crackdown on the Ikhwan seems to have been effective, meaning they will not be as well represented in the upcoming elections. And if they resort to violence, as they have recently hinted, that will alienate all but the most radical of the Ikhwan. And that would be a great pretext for Muburak to drop the hammer on them, once and for all.

    Just look at the disaster that is the Hamas government next door.

    And Pakistan hasn’t descended into an Islamic theocracy after their most recent elections. They’ve actually just nominated a female Parliament Speaker. If Pakistan can do it why the hell can’t Egypt??

  10. EgPeter-

    I think it has a whole lot to do with conditions…Right now…I guess most Egyptians distrust the MB types more than they dislike Mubarak…you would know better than me…

    But if things get really really tough…if folks feel even more trapped…will they look towards a savior.

    Iranians in the revolution were made up of much more than Islamist…there were Communists, anarachists, liberals, academians etc. They figured anything could be better than the hated Shah and what could be better than giving the USA the finger? So emotion blinded reason…and they traded a shark for a bigger shark and a pack of pirhanas along with it.

    Could I see that in Egypt? Sadly…I think so.

  11. Eva, Canada says:

    “there were Communists, anarachists, liberals, academians etc”

    That’s the breed which has been causing grief all over the world. People who work hard have neither time nor inclination to invent theories.

  12. anonymous says:

    Eva is right. Find jobs for the millions of unemployed Egyptians and they will be too busy and too tired to protest or revolt…much less reproduce at the astronomical rate they r reproducing at…

    So u’ve decided u r Egyptian thru and thru and u will stick it out…Bravo 3alaik!

    1 down 1 2 go babe!