Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob has played down a backlash in Iran after he kissed Iranian actress Leila Hatami on the cheek.
Leila 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.
Gilles 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,” Gilles 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.
However, Iranian deputy minister of culture, Hoseyn Nushabadi, said that Leila Hatami’s appearance in Cannes was “in violation of religious beliefs”.
Born into a family with a film background, Leila Hatami gained worldwide recognition for her role in Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, which won the 2012 Academy Award for best foreign language film.
Leila Hatami still lives in Iran with her husband, actor Ali Mosaffa.
The conservative Young Journalists’ Club, operated by Iran’s state broadcaster, wrote that “extending her [Leila Hatami’s] hand to Jacob was unconventional and improper behavior”.
Leila 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.
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