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‘Persepolis’ banned in Lebanon

Authorities pull Oscar-nominated film

Lebanese authorities have banned “Persepolis” after fears it may exacerbate the fragile political situation there.

The animated pic, nominated for animated feature at last month’s Academy Awards, is based on co-helmer Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical, bestselling graphic novel about growing up in Iran during the 1979 revolution.

Authorities likely want to avoid any potential fallout from offending pro-Iranian members of the Lebanese opposition, notably Hezbollah.

“They want to stay on the safe side and not create any more friction,” said Gianluca Chacra, topper at United Arab Emirates-based distrib Front Row Entertainment, which is handling the pic’s Mideast release. “We’re still hoping for a DVD release in Lebanon.”

The film passed the censor in the UAE.

Stephen Gaghan’s “Syriana,” starring George Clooney as a CIA agent in Beirut, was banned in Lebanon in 2005 due to sensitivities over scenes featuring Hezbollah.

Lebanon has been in a political crisis for months, with the country deadlocked between pro-government forces, backed by the West, and the opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.

“Persepolis,” which offers a wry, satirical look at the increasingly oppressive life under the rule of the mullahs, has drawn criticism from Iranian officials since its preem at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it won the jury prize.

Mehdi Kalhor, a cultural adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, at the time blasted the award as a sign of France’s “Islamophobia,” while Alireza Rezadad, topper of the government-affiliated Farabi Cinema Foundation, published a letter accusing the film of presenting “an unreal picture of the outcomes and achievements of the Islamic Revolution.”

Ironically, the film was screened at two cultural centers in Iran’s capital, Tehran, recently.

“The aim of this screening is to end the delusions surrounding the film which have been created by the media,” said the Rasaneh cultural center’s public relations chief, Mahmoud Babareza. “When a film is not shown, people make all sorts of misconceptions. Cinema is cinema, after all, and it should not be put into a limited political context.”