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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 May, 2004, 22:19 GMT 23:19 UK
Iran 'anti-cleric' film withdrawn
Tehran cinema-goers
People across Iran queued to see Marmoulak
The makers of an Iranian box-office hit seen as satirising the religious establishment have decided to withdraw the film.

The producers of Marmoulak (The Lizard) say the award-winning film will be withdrawn by next Friday, following pressure from the authorities.

The film had been playing to packed cinemas since 21 April - but attracted criticism from the conservative clergy.

It is about a convicted criminal who disguises himself as a mullah.

"This film is going to be taken off screens gradually by the end of this week," the film's financier Manouchehr Mohammadi said on Saturday.

He said the film - which had a contract to run until July - had grossed almost $1m in the capital Tehran alone.

Those who oppose Marmoulak do not want cinema to exist as a modern medium
Manouchehr Mohammadi
But hardliners have found it offensive.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the powerful Guardian Council, said the film was a "bad influence".

"The judiciary and the culture ministry have not banned the film, except in a few towns, but they have advised us to stop screening it," Mr Mohammadi told the Iranian student news agency ISNA.

He said he and producer Kamal Tabrizi had taken the decision reluctantly but had "seen no obvious alternative".


Mr Mohammadi also lashed out at his critics.

"Those who oppose Marmoulak do not want cinema to exist as a modern medium," he said.

Marmoulak's release was delayed by a month as the religious authorities debated whether or not to ban it.

It was finally released with minor cuts from the version that won the best film award at Tehran's international film festival in February. It was an immediate hit.

The audience lapped up the comedy, as the film's lead character - Reza the Lizard - revels in the privileges and power his clerical robes bring him.

Eventually he captivates his congregation's imagination by his simplicity and brings worshippers flocking back to the mosques.

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