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Her house is like a temple of light where books, flowers and art are mixed. There is a garden full of plants and a large canvas of two Iranian women that takes up an entire wall. Her blue-eyed white cat paces the table during the interview. Marjane Satrapi (Rasht, Iran, 1969) lights her first cigarette and ties her black hair. "The cat loves people, it's the complete opposite of me," she admits.
She receives us for an interview as a result of the publication in Spanish of Mujer, Vida, Libertad (Reservoir Books), a work that she, a comic book author and filmmaker, has coordinated and that tells, through illustrated stories by different artists, the revolution that began in Iran after the death in 2022 of Masha Amini, beaten to death by the morality police for not wearing her veil properly. He has also just filmed Paris Paradis, a film in which Spanish actors Eduardo Noriega and Rossy de Palma have participated.
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Alejandro Palomas: "I left my book on abuse thinking: 'Enough, I can't take this anymore'Your masterpiece is Persepolis. Are you aware of the influence it has had on different generations of women? I'm not aware of it, because for that you have to meet people who tell you, but I'm a lonely person, I have three or four friends. I only have a social life when I'm making films. I hate going out. I think you have to be humble with the artistic work we do. I need time to reflect and that's something you do alone. In Woman, Life, Freedom you say that it is the first great feminist revolution because it is supported by men... We've had a lot of feminist revolutions in another sense, often it's for a law to be changed, but there are few men who are there. Here I speak of revolution, of uprising, because Iran, throughout history, is the country that has made the most revolutions, but so far it has meant a cultural change. Because the dictator in Iran is not a man, his name is not Khomeini, his name is not Franco or Pinochet. The dictator is a culture and this culture is based on patriarchy. If we were in a matriarchal society, it would be the other way around. If that culture doesn't evolve, democracy is a chimera, it doesn't exist. The slogan today is Woman, Life and Freedom. A feminist revolution will never go all the way if it doesn't have the support of men. The version of feminism that I like is that of the facts, what I do with my actions. A feminism assumed and defended by men is a cultural change. Everyone will say that the greatest feminist revolution in the world is that of woman, life and liberty, I can assure you of that. Iranian women have always lived under a lot of repression, but, unlike other countries, they have always rebelled. It's tied to our history. Women are combative because that's what our mothers have brought us up for. Mine always told me: 'no one is going to give you your rights, you have to fight to earn them'. In Iran, a woman's life is worth the friendship of a man's, her testimony... The result of these repressions is that half of the students are women. Can't we study? Let's study twice as much! We have learned to fight and this is a culture that has been going on for a long time. Why do you think men do support this revolution now, and not before? Culturally they have changed, this generation has a different relationship with the world than we had. Before, your parents answered your questions, now they have their own means of finding answers. We didn't have access to information and today you open the internet and if you're homosexual you see that there are countries where you can live in freedom. That knowledge allows you to move forward. Westerners have achieved a thing called democracy, which is great, and we aspire to that same democracy. Human rights are not something that is done only for Western society. Human beings are born to be free and that is why I wanted to write this book, because I believe that the most beautiful thing in the world is freedom, but there is something more beautiful than freedom, which is the fight for freedom.
There is only one thing in the world more beautiful than freedom: the struggle for freedom
Do you think that in some societies there is a misunderstood feminism of labels? Feminism for me is humanism. I want to be considered a human being and I don't want my gender to be mentioned, which has nothing to do with my artistic creation. If we say that women and men create differently, then should we do black and white film festivals? Because you don't have the same view of the world... We create little ghettos for ourselves. I have never been at war with men, who make excellent traveling companions. We fight for humanity, for human beings. I was born in Iran and I can't enter another country without a visa. If you are born in Norway, even if you are a serial killer, just by that fact, you can move, the earth is a travel terrain for you. Justice begins where you are born. For me, this is more of a reason for struggle, and it concerns humanity and all sexes. Machismo is the rejection of democracy and we see it outside. With Trump or with today's pseudo-dictators. Do you see any Iranian women-like rebellion anywhere else? Where there are no rights for them, we cannot speak of democracy. We are about to enter a new cold war, where we have the dictatorial axis, with Russia and China, and on the other side, the democratic axis, which is fragile because American democracy is completely adrift. When with Trump, after what has happened, you see the percentage of Americans who love him... In every civilization you have a wild phase, a civilization phase, and then that becomes decadence. In the U.S., they have gone straight from savagery to decadence. Today, the only place that is the guarantor of democracy is Europe. Today if you're Palestinian, you're a terrorist, if you're pro-Israel, you're defending Netanyahu's fake. But really: Is Netanyahu corrupt? Yes. Is Hamas a terrorist organization? Yes. Do Palestinians suffer? Yes. And the Israelis? Also. Can they live together? Yes. The answer to all of this is yes, and no one has a monopoly on suffering. But it seems like today you are forced to choose a field and it's not as simple as that. When the Charlie Hebdo murders happened, a journalist asked me if they had gone too far with the cartoons of Muhammad. I said, "Is the response to a design a slaughter?" Never. I don't choose a field, but for that you have to think, and thinking requires effort, while judgment doesn't, none. That's why people judge so easily. Art is the link that binds the little bricks together in society: if you put them on top of each other they crumble, you need something to bring them together and this is culture. A society without art and culture is a society that is crumbling. A society without compassion is a society that falls apart. Women in Iran take off their veils, but in France they fight to put it on, not to be forced to take it off... In France we have not understood that the issue of the veil is not a religious issue, but a political and identity issue. We don't understand where the problem is coming from. The meaning of the veil is that you must cover yourself from man because you are an object. But the French have managed to make the veil a symbol of resistance, when it is a symbol of submission, but I think it is a more identity-based, political problem. But if you cover up, it's not a symbol of emancipation. Elsewhere it is criticized that they do not wear short skirts. It's always the women and how they dress. And thethe? Let them wash their eyes, so that we don't have to cover ourselves because maybe they have to look at us with less lubricity. In her work, the influence of the women in her family is always very present... I've been fortunate to grow up in a family where women were combative. My grandmother never stopped saying no, but she didn't even know I was a feminist, she didn't think of it as a struggle. We learn to fight because we know we are not given our rights. In the history of aviation, when it started, there were many more women pilots than today. By dint of telling us what we are like or what we can't do, there comes a time when women no longer believe in themselves.
A feminist revolution will never succeed if it does not have the support of men
Why did you stop doing comics? It's going to seem pretentious: I did my first comic and I won an award and between 2000 and 2004 I had all the awards you can have. I know I know how to do it, that's why I'm not interested in it anymore. The interesting thing is to learn something new. I made a film and realized that it was better when I worked with others, because that collective work brought me together. I've just made a film with Eduardo Noriega and Rossy de Palma and she doesn't care about the dialogue I've written, she adapts it in her own way and it's magnificent. She plays the character. I hate the past, that's why I don't like to be photographed. I want a car that doesn't have a reverse gear. The goal is to move forward, not to revisit a topic that already works. I like to go over a topic that is challenging and makes me feel in danger. She doesn't feel comfortable in the comfort zone... I hate comfort, what I like most in the world is chaos, because the universe is made up of chaos trying to organize itself. What would you say to the Marjane Satrapi who went into exile from Iran, the one from Persepolis? There are things that you need maturity to live, but when you're 20 years old you need the approval of others. We almost do acts of mental prostitution every day to be liked. It's taken me a long time to ask myself a question: "Do you like everybody?" No, there's only a minority you want. It still happens to me, that I get invited to a party and since I'm enthusiastic I say yes but then I don't feel like it. Last time I was told that the party was cancelled and it was as if I had won a million to the euromillion, when it would have been enough to say no. If there's one thing I would say to that young woman, it's to learn to say no. If it's not an enthusiastic and definitive 'yes', then it's a no. You've done comics, movies... Is there anything you don't think about? I've just filmed Paris Paradis, it's an ensemble film. But I've never had any plans, nor have I ever told myself I'm going to do this or that. Something comes along and I try. And what I think I would want to do today is not what I want to do years from now. Yes, I will make a film in Iran the day I can come back, but not as the exile that I am. Because my political analysis is linked to my nostalgia and my melancholy, and you can't put that in a play, unless it's to talk about it. I must not forget that I have lived 35 years of my life in Europe. I haven't been there for 23 years. Will you come back when the revolution triumphs? Of course, I know he will and I'll make a movie then, but I have to go because there's nothing that resembles Iran like Iran.