TEHRAN — Some authorities and media outlets here are making a fuss over a kiss on the cheek bestowed by Gilles Jacob, president of the Cannes Film Festival, on Iran’s biggest movie star, Leila Hatami, a juror at the festival.
On Tuesday, Iran’s deputy minister of culture, Hossein Noushabadi, said Hatami's appearance at Cannes was “in violation of religious beliefs.”
The Young Journalists Club, a conservative state-affiliated publication, said Hatami exhibited “unconventional and improper behavior" by extending her hand to shake Jacob’s.
Others complained that the actress’s neckline was overly exposed.
It is obligatory for women in Iran to wear the hijab, a head covering, and physical contact between unrelated men and women is discouraged in public. In the past, unmarried men and women could be punished for being in public together, but such punishment is rare these days, especially in larger Iranian cities.
Because Hatami is Iran’s most well-known actress, a member of the cast of the only Iranian film to win an Oscar, “The Separation,” and apparently intends to continue working within the Islamic republic's rules and regulations, it seems unlikely that there will be any major ramifications when she returns to Tehran.
When another popular Iranian actress, Golshifteh Farahani, appeared topless in a French magazine as well as in a short film in 2012, it was much easier for authorities to deal with.
Farahani was told that she was no longer welcome in Iran, but by that time she had already left the country and was pursuing acting opportunities in Hollywood and Europe.
Hatami’s standing in Iranian cinema, and Iranian society in general, however, is probably not threatened by this incident.
It’s worth noting that then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced similar criticism when he embraced the grieving mother of Hugo Chávez at the Venezuelan president’s funeral in March 2013.
Ahmadinejad was allowed to finish his term.