Issues of morality, ethnicity and cultural divides are never just black and white. But in her animated feature film debut, Persepolis, out December 25, director-writer Marjane Satrapi uses the colorless palette to explore such complex topics to profound effect.

Based on her graphic novels of the same name, Persepolis is a semiautobiographical tale about Satrapi’s coming of age—first as a young girl growing up in Tehran, Iran, during the fall of the Shah; then as a teenager in Vienna, and later as a young woman returning to her homeland. Told as an extended flashback, the French-language film includes the voice work of Chiara Mastroianni (as Marjane) and Catherine Deneuve (as her mother, Tadji), and won a special jury prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Now a resident of France, the 38-year-old Satrapi had been approached by Hollywood when her work first drew praise, but chose to forgo such offers. “You don’t know to which extent they are going to f–k up your story,” she states bluntly. Instead, she opted to collaborate with friend and artist Vincent Paronnaud.  

“It’s a movie about one human being, so it’s not a kind of political statement,” Satrapi says.

Persepolis, Sony Pictures Classics, Dec. 25 (U.S.)

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