Iranian actress Leila Hatami apologises for Cannes kiss

Peck on the cheek from film festival's director caused outrage in Iran and condemnation from minister.

The Iranian actress Leila Hatami arrives for the screening of the film "Jimmy's Hall" at the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, where she is a member of the jury, on May 22, 2014. Bertrand Langlois / AFP
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TEHRAN // The Iranian actress Leila Hatami has apologised for kissing the Cannes Film Festival’s president on the cheek, an act which angered authorities in the Islamic republic.

“I am so sorry for hurting the feelings of some people,” Ms Hatami wrote in a letter to Iran’s cinema organisation that was cited by the state news agency Irna.

She underlined her respect for Islamic rules of behaviour in public, but said the festival president Gilles Jacob, 83, “had forgotten the aforementioned rules, which comes with old age”.

“My pre-emptive action of hand shaking was fruitless,” Ms Hatami wrote, explaining the kiss.

“Although I am embarrassed to give these explanations, I had no choice but to go into details for those who could not understand the inevitable situation that I was stuck in,” she said.

“In my eyes, he is certainly like an old grandfather who was also my host.”

A photograph carried by Iranian media showed the actress kissing Mr Jacob on the cheek at the opening of the festival earlier this month, prompting a reprimand.

Iran’s deputy minister for culture and Islamic guidance, Hossein Nushabadi, said Ms Hatami’s conduct was “not in line with our religious beliefs”.

“Those who attend international events should take heed of the credibility and chastity of Iranians, so that a bad image of Iranian women will not be demonstrated to the world,” he said last Sunday.

“Iranian woman is the symbol of chastity and innocence.”

The Iranian website Tasnim News reported that a group of female Islamist students are seeking legal action against Ms Hatami, calling for her to be sentenced to a jail term and lashed.

Born into a family with a background in cinema, Ms Hatami, 41, gained worldwide fame for her role in Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, which won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

She was on the jury this year at the Cannes festival in southern France but lives in Iran with her actor husband Ali Mosaffa and their two children .

According to Iran’s interpretation of Sharia law, in place since the 1979 Islamic revolution, a woman is not allowed to have physical contact with a man outside her family.

* Agence France-Presse