Watching Movies in Iran

shrek

“Our conversation turns to the movie Shrek. Nahal loves Shrek so much that she’s seen the first installment of the DreamWorks trilogy ‘at least thirty-six or thirty-seven times.’ Her obsession is, apparently, shared by many Iranians. The image of Shrek appears everywhere throughout Tehran: painted on the walls of DVD and electronics shops, featured in an elaborate mural in the children’s play area of the food court at the Jaam-e Jam mall. Once, from a car, I passed a five-foot-tall Shrek mannequin on the sidewalk; like his fellow pedestrians, he wore a surgical face mask to protect him from the smog.

“Nahal explains: ‘You know, it’s not really the original Shrek that we love so much here. It’s really the dubbing. It’s really more the Iranian Shrek that interests us.’

“The Iranian film industry has a long and illustrious tradition of high-quality dubbings. In the post-Revolution era, and the ensuing rise of censorship, dubbing has evolved to become a form of underground art, as well as a meta-commentary on Iranians’ attempt to adapt, and in some way lay claim to, the products of Western culture. A single American film like Shrek inspires multiple dubbed versions—some illegal, some not—causing Iranians to discuss and debate which of the many Farsi Shreks is superior. In some versions (since withdrawn from official circulation), various regional and ethnic accents are paired with the diverse characters of Shrek, the stereotypes associated with each accent adding an additional layer of humor for Iranians. In the more risqué bootlegs, obscene or off-topic conversations are transposed over Shrek’s fairy-tale shenanigans.”

-Brian T. Edwards, in The Believer (2010), on filmmaking and culture in Iran. Read more on Iran.

***

We need your help to get to 5,000 Longreads Members.

Join Longreads now and help us keep going.

Editorial, Automattic / WordPress.com / Founder, Longreads
Get the Longreads Weekly Email

Sign up to receive the Top 5 Longreads of the week, delivered every Friday.