Sepideh Jodeyri attended a Q&A prior to a screening of Blue is the Warmest Colour as part of the ILF Dublin at the IFI. An Iranian poet, translator, literary critic and journalist, Jodeyri has dealt with great adversity since translating Julie Maroh’s graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Colour into Persian. She made this professional choice in an attempt to educate Iranian people about LGBT life. In her own words, her desire was to show her people how to behave in reaction to those “who are unlike” the dominant culture sanctioned by the Iranian government. The conversation at the event was dominated by discussion of her works, as well as her feelings about being exiled in Prague because of her professional life.

Jodeyri discussed living in exile as she’s viewed as a “supporter and promoter of homosexuality”, a fact she finds amusing. As she puts it, it’s “impossible to promote homosexuality“. The basis for this smearing of Jodeyri’s name stems entirely from her translation of Blue is the Warmest Colour. It has led to what she describes as her “pen being banned”, with the Ministry of Intelligence banning not only her own poetry and writing, but also her name. This means that anything mentioning Jodeyri such as interviews or articles tend to be banned alongside her work.

The film version of Blue is the Warmest Colour has had worldwide acclaim, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2012 and performing well internationally. Jodeyri’s love remains with the original graphic novel and she proclaimed herself as a fan of Julie Maroh’s work despite the impact it’s had on her life. Jodeyri cannot go back to Iran after leaving of her own decision to keep her son safe and protect her family. Her friends have been interrogated for being connected to her and all have warned her to stay away from Iran as her leaving drew attention to her as a target. That means she hasn’t been able to see her family or friends since she left Iran a little over four years ago.

Sepideh Jodeyri is trying to combat her status as “persona non grata” in Iran. She has released a new book of poetry called And Emptiness is Flowing Under My Skin this year, all of which was written while in exile. It is banned in Iran as her poetry is seen to promote homosexuality, despite the fact that Jodyri is a married heterosexual woman who doesn’t write about same-sex relationships in her own work. She has made the book free as an eBook to any Iranian citizen living inside Iran and dedicated the collection to all of the Iranian people living in exile around the world.

The Q&A was left me with the idea that we’re lucky to live in Ireland, where there is a system of democracy, and for the most part LGBT people are safe to live freely, not having to fear that they will need to flee the country. While there were not strong ties created between the conversation of the Q&A and the screening of Blue is the Warmest Colour that followed, it was an event that seemed as though it was giving the audience a brief insight into the pain of life as a exile while tackling issues of representation and free speech that do not crop up as often in Ireland.