Ultimately, the “Lizard” (“Marmoulak”) proved too slippery for the Iranian censors.
The surprise hit pic, which charts the fortunes of a thief who escapes from jail and avoids capture by disguising himself as a Mullah, has been pulled from cinemas by state authorities after four weeks of release.
Farrokh Soltani, film editor of culture Web site TehranAvenue.Com, says the satire of hard-line religious authorities threatened traditional leadership.
“After screenings of the film, people started calling the Mullahs lizards as well, which is a bit of an insult,” says Soltani. “The Mullahs are powerful and they don’t like to be insulted. So they pulled it down.”
The pressure had been on “Lizard” since its release, which was initially delayed several weeks while censors asked filmmakers to make a number of cuts. Hardline newspaper Jomhuri Al-Eslami even ran an editorial labeling the film “an insult to all the good things that must be respected in religion.”
The censorship of politically sensitive films in Iran is hardly news. Iranian director Jafar Panahi‘s “The Circle” and “Crimson Gold” have yet to be screened in Iran despite winning the top prize at the Venice fest and the Camera D’Or at Cannes, respectively.