Leila Hatami: When a kiss is not just a kiss

Leila Hatami greeted the French president of the Cannes Film Festival with a kiss. An Iranian official said that Leila Hatami's PDA undermined the chastity of Iranian women.

Iran's Islamic conservatives don't condone public displays of affection. They especially don't appreciate it when it takes place on a global stage.

So, it's not that surprising that Leila Hatami got a public smackdown for her "offensive" peck at the Cannes Film Festival.

"Those who attend intentional 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," said the Islamic republic's deputy culture minister, Hossein Noushabadi, according to the translation on the website of the Iranian state broadcast service, IRIB, adding, "[The] Iranian woman is the symbol of chastity and innocence."

Leila Hatami is one of Iran's best-known screen stars. She was co-star of the 2011 film, "A Separation," which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

What did Hatami do?

She exchanged the customary one-cheek, two-cheek air kiss as a greeting with the president of the Cannes Film Festival, Gilles Jacob. The French director and producer responded to the criticism by taking the blame. 

"It was me who gave a kiss to Madame Hatami," Jacob wrote on Twitter. "At that moment, she represented to me all of Iranian cinema. … This controversy based on a normal Western custom is baseless."

The big Iranian headlines over one small set of smooches recalls the PDA crackdown by Iran's "morality police" in 2007.

At that time, a decree was issued that any unmarried couple was forbidden from appearing together in public and all couples were banned from kissing and holding hands in public, the Fars News Agency reported. "If someone walks in the street with his partner and commits an offense, we will deal with it," Ahmad Ruzbahani, chief of the morality police, told Fars.

At the time, United Press International reported that a 27-year-old medical student hung herself after she was arrested for walking in a park with her boyfriend.

On a sadly ironic note, the reason that Hatami is at Cannes this year is not to accept any awards or promote a film, but rather to serve on the prestigious Cannes judges panel.

Hatami is one of five women and four men on the first majority female judging panel since 2009.

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