Rediscovering the lost art
"Marmoolak" tickled nerves I had forgotten
June 21, 2004
Finally the Iranian movie, "Marmoolak" (Lizard),
opened in San Diego. It had been advertised for some time. Having
essay in iranian.com and listened to raving reviews from friends,
I could not wait to see it. I went to the matinee show on its first
Word had not gotten around yet, few people showed
up. So I think the fact that I laughed so hard had nothing to do
with the atmosphere
in the theater. (In fact, I had a feeling I disturbed the American
couple in the next row who were trying to decipher the subtitles.)
I laughed so hard, my jaws began to hurt.
It occurred to me much later, I could not remember
the last time I had laughed, really laughed. Long gone are the
days when Iranian
gatherings used to revolve around laughter. We told jokes, shamelessly
imitated Turkish and Rashti accents, and made fun of all walks
of life. Alas, no more of that. We are so politically correct,
ethnic jokes have lost their flavor.
With the major changes in politics, Iranian jokes
took a sharp-and witty-left turn. Alas, that too had to end soon.
People found it
hard to laugh at such painful issues. In the end, serious talks
about the economy, corrupt governments, and war replaced the
jokes, which in turn made our gatherings less fun. So much less,
to attend all-together. I convinced myself that my halfhearted
laughter was a byproduct of aging.
Then came "Marmoolak" to tell me, you really never
know. It brought back memories and tickled nerves that I had forgotten
I had. Was
it the clever scenario? The believable acting and witty dialogue?
Or, did the familiar setting make it so enjoyable? Was I plain
I thought about it for a while. I would go to see
it again, but why? With so many good films-most of them far better
was never tempted to see anything twice. To be honest, I felt
embarrassed. Then it dawned on me. It had to do with what is considered
rule of democracy: The pursuit of happiness.
With no sanctions, no prejudice-at least none against
me, for a change-and no restrictions, I could laugh all I wanted.
laugh at my own people, at my own culture and at memories I had
buried so deep that only such a marmoolak could unravel.
It was as if with each laughter a slogan was shouted
out: Hey people, look at this. This is me, and that's exactly what
happened to us!
We were as innocent, as naive, and as hopeful. We thought God
had sent us help to put an end to our misery. We wanted to be closer
to God, but we also wanted justice and mercy for all.
You see? We weren't stupid. The clergy weren't particularly
smart either. They just happened to be in the right place at the
When the lead actor did his public prayer, I laughed
remembering my broken prayers as a youngster. I remembered failing
studies and being stuck in Arabic as a second language. I laughed
at lies told to a people, deception, women's oppression, and
injustice. I laughed a laughter that had been as overdue as the
In the end, I realized the film had brought to light
my own forbidden thoughts-not to mention words. It felt good to
know there's nothing
wrong with me. I may be getting older, but I can still laugh. It
isn't a lost art. It comes back when life gives you something to
laugh about, even if that "something" is as bitter as
I enjoyed that laughter the same way one enjoys
the opening of an infested wound, the release of a painful pressure,
of a breath held for too long.
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a freelance
poet and artist. She lives in San Diego, California.