​Leila Hatami Kiss Controversy Downplayed

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May 22, 2021

Leila Hatami received a kiss that has prompted a backlash in Iran with Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob. However, Jacob is downplaying the incident with Hatami because it was on the cheek, not the lips.

Jacob said it was “a usual custom in the West” after Iranian media claimed it was an affront to the “chastity” of women in Iran. “I kissed Mrs Hatami on the cheek,” Jacob tweeted. “At that moment, for me she represented all Iranian cinema, then she became herself again.”

“The controversy over a usual custom in the West has therefore no reason to be,” he added.

But Iranian deputy minister of culture, Hoseyn Nushabadi, said that Hatami’s appearance in Cannes was “in violation of religious beliefs”.

Born into a family with a film background, Hatami gained worldwide recognition for her role in Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, which won the 2012 Academy Award for best foreign language film.

She still lives in Iran with her husband, actor Ali Mosaffa.

The conservative Young Journalists’ Club, operated by the country’s state broadcaster, wrote that “extending her (Hatami’s) hand to Jacob was unconventional and improper behaviour”.

Sebastian Usher, the BBC’s World Service Middle East editor, said Hatami was wearing a scarf around her head but her neck was uncovered. Both her dress and the kiss “are unacceptable in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, he explained.

Hatami is one of five women members on the Palme d’Or prize jury, which includes actress Carole Bouquet and directors Sofia Coppola and jury president Jane Campion.