Punk Rock Ist Nicht Tot

The ubiquitous adverts say “War. Revolution. Family. Punk rock. All part of growing up”. And the “Punk is not ded” illustration is dead-on smart marketing. So, altogether then, every reason to be suspicious of “Persepolis”. 

It’s an over-hyped, over the top, and now over-here cutesy cartoon film that we could well do without. Right? Er, no. Persepolis is actually a sharp film wrapped up in an accessible package. Its focus on the naïve and infectious child character Marjane threatens to be cloying but actually works.

It’s an animated film that within minutes assumes a reality all of its own. Boyfriends, political imprisonment, make-up, execution, music, war, forcible wearing of the veil: Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical take on life in Iran during the last 30 years is a thoroughly noir cartoon. It’s The Simpsons for grown ups. 

(By the way: The Simpsons. Surely the most over-rated so-called “comedy” animation of the last 20 years?)

Persepolis is a dark topic. The strangling of women’s and girls’ rights during a time of war and political repression. But it doesn’t hector. Ok, I’m saying it’s good! But don’t take my word for it. There’s also Amnesty blogger Laura D’s view, and get extra verdicts from Peter Bradshaw in today’s Guardian (“one of those rare things in the cinema…an urgent new story to tell and an urgent new way of telling it”) and from Derek Malcolm in yesterday’s Evening Standard (“excellent work”).

Anyway, as your esteemed Amnesty reviewer … I do have two quibbles with Persepolis.  First, there’s no punk in the film! What Marjane “discovers” is Iron Maiden, and then an Austrian version of death-metal. Come on, these distinctions matter! As a long-time (and long-suffering) afficionado of all things punk (look, I’ve seen the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Fall and er, the Boomtown Rats), I’m affronted that the film’s marketeers could be so sloppy.

And, second quibble. The film is dubbed into English from the French original, but why the American voice-overs from Sean Penn, Gena Rowlands and Iggy Pop? I like these artists (who doesn’t dig the Igg?!) but these voices don’t work. Better to have tried for an “Iranian” flavour, with Farsi-accented English-speaking voice-over artists. 

But, ok: go and see it. It’s still great stuff. Persepolis does the rounds of London’s art house cinemas from today and the rest of the UK’s more discerning film spots in the next few weeks.

Satrapi’s film should also, of course, inspire you to support Amnesty’s top-class campaign to defend the rights of Iran’s 35 million women and girls! We’re especially highlighting the incredibly brave work of Iran’s “Campaign for Equality” activists who are pressing for greater equality for women. Like our own suffragettes 100 years ago, their activism is being met with suspicion, intimidation and even violence and imprisonment. Read more and support their one-million signature campaign. 

And don’t forget, “Punk’s not ded”!

(PS: check out Paul O’Connell’s ultra-noir The Sound Of Drowning graphic art series – it’s fresh out of Brighton!)

(PPS: more animation from Amnesty to come on 30 April! Please apply in person to steve.ballinger@amnesty.org.uk if you’d like early info on our excellent China Olympics animations. As they say down my street, they’re kool.) 

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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