Marjane Satrapi is a person gifted with perfect charisma: She's loyal, funny, brutally honest, and she has a big, big soul that's visible from across a room. Not to mention she's one of the most original artists working today.
The Academy Award-nominated director and best-selling author of Persepolis recently visited the fifth annual Kustendorf Film and Music Festival to screen her new live action film, Chicken with Plums. A passion project of Balkan director Emir Kusturica, Kustendorf brings together new student filmmakers with some of the world's greatest auteurs in the mountains of Mokra Gora. Satrapi enchanted the audience at a special workshop, where more than a few young men broke traditional Q&A form to stand up and declare their love for her.
Chicken with Plums, due out in the U.S. later this year, was co-written and directed with Satrapi's frequent collaborator Vincent Paronnaud. Less explicitly political than Persepolis, Plums tells the story of a man who dies over a lost love. That the object of his affection, an angelic woman from his past, is named "Iran" is no small coincidence -- this visually stunning fairytale mourns a lost dream of democracy.
In person, Satrapi herself is stunning, perhaps due to her constitutional inability to mince words. I spoke with her about the perils of the artist's life, the impossibility of ever becoming a morning person, and how her perspective on "changing the world" has evolved over the past 20 years.
Why were you attracted to the graphic novel art form?
Well for me, who is someone who cannot choose between writing and drawing, it was the best way of expressing myself. And I enjoyed doing it for a long time very much, but it's very solitary. And now the love of my life is the cinema, and maybe in three years it will be something else. But I don't have any career plans like, oh, I will do this or that.
Life is too short and we cannot spoil it. I don't have 300 years in front of me. So I just do the things that I really want to do at the moment because that's the only way you will do them well. If you don't believe in yourself, it won't work.
Because creation, you know, it means that you don't have any salary, you don't have any retirement, all of that. So if you don't have the security, at least have the freedom. I go for the freedom.
What was it like for you to go from animation with Persepolis to live action filmmaking in Chicken with Plums?
It was very cool because live action is like living four years of your life in four months. Everything is extremely extreme. It's a little bit like taking hard drugs. You get really high and then you go down, and then you're like, "Never ever in my life I will touch this shit again." And then, once you are fine, you feel like taking it again.
With a feature animation, it's a little bit like running a marathon. It's a long thing. And I'm not a marathon runner. So I had more joy making a live action movie than an animation. I would like to make an animation project again, but a short animation project. A long animation feature takes lots of lots of time. It's very slow.
Do you consider yourself a rebel?
Actually, I never thought very differently from other people. Many times I have heard people say that I was a rebel, but I'm not a rebel at all. A rebel is when you know you're conscious of something that you're fighting against.
With me, I just don't understand why I should do what people tell me to do. The majority is always wrong. I mean if the majority was right, then we would live in a better world. But the world is not good, which means that the majority is always, always wrong.
So you always have your personal way of thinking, and you just cannot let it go. There are things that I believe in and nothing in this world would make me change my mind.
What's the message you hope people take away from Chicken with Plums?
I don't have any message. If people can enjoy one and a half hours and dream, this is enough for me. Even when I was 25 years old, I wanted to change the world and I said to myself, "I cannot change the world." When I was 30 years old, I said to myself, "I definitely will change the world." At the age of 35, I realized that the world was changing me, and I didn't like that at all. And now I'm 40. I've decided it's on me to change, and maybe by my own change, I can change the small world around me.
Read the full story at The 99 Percent.