No Cannes do: actress Leila Hatami kiss infuriates Iranian authorities

Iranian actress Leila Hatami told that accepting a peck on the cheek from the film festival's 83-year-old president was "in violation of the country’s religious beliefs”.
A video screen grab showing the Iranian actress Leila Hatami receiving a peck on the cheek from Gilles Jacob, the president of the Cannes Film festival. Courtesy Canal+
A video screen grab showing the Iranian actress Leila Hatami receiving a peck on the cheek from Gilles Jacob, the president of the Cannes Film festival. Courtesy Canal+

TEHRAN // Iranian authorities have criticised the actress Leila Hatami for unacceptable behaviour after receiving a peck on the cheek from the president of the Cannes Film Festival.

Gilles Jacob, 83, sought to defend Ms Hatami, who is on the festival jury this year, tweeting that he was the one to initiate the western-style greeting, but the backlash against the 41-year-old actress in her home country has shown no sign of abating.

Iran’s deputy minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Hossein Nushabadi, also criticised Ms Hatami’s physical appearance, including exposing her neck, saying it was “in violation of the country’s religious beliefs”.

In Iran, women are required to keep their hair and body completely covered in public. Physical contact between unrelated members of the opposite sex is also frowned upon by authorities.

“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,” Mr Nushabadi said. “The Iranian woman is the symbol of chastity and innocence.

“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.”

The Young Journalists’ Club, a conservative Iranian news agency affiliated to the country’s state broadcaster, described Ms Hatami’s extending her hand to Mr Jacob at their meeting on Sunday as “unconventional and improper behaviour”.

Born into a filmmaking family, Ms Hatami is arguably Iran’s most famous actor.

She gained worldwide recognition for her role in Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, which won Iran’s first Oscar at the 2012 Academy Awards, for best foreign language film.

Ms Hatami is married to the actor Ali Mosaffa and has two children. Despite her international success, she and her family continue to live in Iran.

The reception she will receive from authorities on her return to Iran is not still clear but, given her prominence at home and globally, it is unlikely to be very harsh.

This is not the first time a controversy has erupted over the actions of an Iranian actress, though previous instances were deemed more offensive than Ms Hatami’s transgression against the moral code of the Islamic republic.

Golshifteh Farahani, a young Iranian actress, who also came from a well known filmmaking family, starred in the US film Body of Lies alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in 2008.

Iranian officials were angered by her appearance in a Hollywood movie and reportedly barred her from leaving the country, but she moved to France, where she continues to live and work.

In January 2012, she appeared topless in a French magazine and a short film. That episode started a debate among Iranians on social media that showed a range of attitudes for and against her decision to expose her body.

Several years earlier, the Iranian actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi faced an even bigger scandal when a video allegedly of her engaging in sexual acts was leaked and went viral on the internet.

Ms Amir Ebrahimi’s career was just taking off at the time, but she never appeared in any film again.

Ms Hatami is expected to return to Iran, after the Cannes festival ends on May 25.

Published: May 20, 2014 04:00 AM


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