Iranian actress Leila Hatami, a Palme d’Or jurist at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is in hot water with her government’s culture police for kissing the festival’s president on the cheek during opening ceremonies.
According to the country’s Islamic conventions adopted in 1979, woman aren’t allowed to touch any man who isn’t a member of her family, a law the 41-year-old starlet clearly violated when she was photographed (below) shaking hands and then kissing on the cheek Gilles Jacob, the 67th-annual festival’s 83-year-old president.
Hossein Noushabadi, Iran’s deputy minister of culture, came out harshly against Hatami’s actions in a statement:
“I hope that those who attend international arenas as Iranian women would be careful about the chastity and dignity of Iranians so that the image of the Iranian woman is not tainted before the world. If they respect Islamic norms and the national culture and beliefs of Iran, it would be a desirable thing for Iranian celebrities to go abroad, but if their presence lacks regard for social values and ethical criteria, the Iranian nation is not going to accept it.”
Hatami has been going abroad as a stellar example of Iranian artistry since well before she starred in the Asghar Farhadi film A Separation, which won a 2012 Oscar for best foreign-language movie.
This is the first time that Hatami, who’s married to actor Ali Mosaffa and lives in Iran, has drawn criticism for touching another man. Still, according to the BBC, Iran’s Young Journalists’ Club (which is operated by Iran’s state broadcasting empire) recently described her touchy-feely Cannes approach as well beyond permissible, since “extending her hand to Jacob was unconventional and improper behavior” as it was.
And to further mar her Cannes visit, the BBC’s Middle East editor, Sebastian Usher, also noted how her head scarf failed to cover her neck — another no-no. Not just the kiss and hand-shake but also her scarf’s arrangement, Usher said, “are unacceptable in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Jacob tweeted in Hatami’s defense after hearing about Iran’s stance: “I kissed Hatami on the cheek. At that moment, for me she represented all Iranian cinema, then she became herself again. This controversy over a usual custom in the West has therefore no reason to be.”
Alongside Hatami as female members of the Palme d’Or jury are director Sofia Coppola, actress Carole Bouquet and Cannes jury president Jane Campion, none of whom caught any flack for smooching cheek after cheek from debut to debut.
[Image courtesy of Cannes Film Festival]