TEHRAN — Succumbing to hard-line pressure, Iran's cinemas have stopped showing a hit film ridiculing the ruling clerics -- a move that could stifle pioneering filmmaking, film industry officials said Wednesday.
"The Lizard" follows the fortunes of a thief who escapes prison by donning the turban and robes of a mullah. Ironically, he proves a crowd-pleaser as a preacher.
After narrowly squeezing past the country's zealous censors, the film played to packed cinemas, breaking box-office records. But its planned 11-week run was cut short Tuesday after four weeks amid a mounting campaign by religious hard-liners for it to be banned.
Film officials said the debacle could dissuade directors from tackling sensitive political topics in the future.
"Moviemakers may not pursue films that poke fun at the clerics, fearing they will meet the same fate," said Farshid Motameni-Azar, a spokesman for the Iranian Cinema Society.
A film critic, who declined to be named, said the movie's box-office success represented a show of "civil disobedience" by the public.