Actress to Be “Dealt with” for Her Greeting of Cannes Festival President
Hardliners lashed out at the prominent Iranian actress Leila Hatami for kissing a Cannes Film Festival official on May 15, 2014, and for the clothing she wore at the Festival, where she is a member of this year’s jury.
Hatami, 41, greeted the 83-year-old president of the festival, Gilles Jacob, with a handshake and kiss on the cheek.
That incident and the long white dress that she wore on the red carpet, which showed part of her legs above the ankles, have enraged officials at the Guidance Ministry in Tehran.
“Her behavior was unacceptable and indefensible,” said Islamic Guidance Minister Ali Jannati.
The uproar is yet another salvo in the running war between hardliners in Iran who are trying to prevent any relaxation of internal repression, and the majority of the population, who demonstrated their desire for greater personal freedoms with their election of the moderate Hassan Rouhani to the presidency last year.
Rouhani has spoken out in favor of the integration of women in the social and economic life of the country. In remarks on April 20, 2014, at a gathering to mark Women’s Day in Iran, he stated, “It is not possible to push 50% of society into isolation or marginalize them. Women should have equal opportunity, equal protections and equal social rights.”
The vehemence directed at Hatami reflects hardliners’ fear of prominent professional women representing Iran on the international stage and the model they represent for Iranian women.
“Iranian women, whether they are artists or not, have always been the symbol of chastity and purity. Therefore the inappropriate appearances in the Cannes Festival are not in accordance with our religious beliefs,” said the Ministry’s Parliamentary Deputy Hossein Noushabadi.
In a commentary on May 18, the conservative daily Kayhan blasted Hatami as “another Iranian movie figure who has insulted the culture of the motherland.” It continued, “Last year Asghar Farhadi also became famous for his manners that were immoral according to our culture,” referring to Farhadi’s handshake with Madonna after winning the Golden Globe for best foreign language director.
Meanwhile, the First Secretary of the Parliament’s Cultural Committee, Laleh Eftekhari, stated, “We strongly condemn this sort of behavior… Artists who do not observe Iranian and Islamic rules of chastity should be seriously dealt with.”
Hatami, the first Iranian woman to become a member of the jury at the prestigious festival, rose to international prominence last year for her role in Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning film, “A Separation.” She is the daughter of the late Iranian director Ali Hatami.