Iranian actress sparks controversy in Iran after hug at Venice film festival

Media outlets in Iran blame Zar Amir Ebrahimi for losing her "modesty" after meeting with former Iranian actor Ashkan Khatibi while promoting her film made with Israeli director Guy Nattiv

The premiere of the film "Tatami" at the Venice Film Festival, a joint project between Israeli director Guy Nattiv and Iranian actress-director Zar Amir Ebrahimi, has been well received in the global media, but not as well-received in the Islamic Republic.
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It looks like the thriller, which features an Iranian judoka required by her government to forfeit the world championship due to a potential match against an Israeli opponent, has gained recognition and appreciation within the Iranian expatriate community. Some of them shared videos and photos from the premiere, praising this historic collaboration.
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גיא נתיב וזאר אמיר איברהימי, מתוך הפרמיירה של "טאטאמי" בפסטיבל ונציה
גיא נתיב וזאר אמיר איברהימי, מתוך הפרמיירה של "טאטאמי" בפסטיבל ונציה
Actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Israeli director Guy Nattiv
(Photo: John Phillips / Stringer / Getty Images)
Iranian media, however, chose to ignore the film itself, and reported on what they called a "huge scandal" that occurred alongside it: a warm hug between Amir Ebrahimi and the Iranian singer and actor Ashkan Khatibi.
Various Iranian news outlets published stories based on photos taken in Venice and disseminated by news agencies, which, among other things, also appeared on Khatibi’s Instagram page. Despite no Iranian reporters being present, the different journalists insisted that both stars who left Iran allowed themselves to act "indecent" before everyone due to their lack of modesty.
According to Iranian media, the meeting between the two spurred controversy in the public due to their lack of decency
In the photos, Amir Ebrahimi and Khatibi share a seemingly innocent friendly hug. Under the usual censorship rules in Iran, these images underwent editing and blurring, with editors making sure to hide the actress's hair and exposed shoulders. In describing the meeting, local tabloids made it clear that the two of them have "lost their modesty" and are shown in “shameful pictures.”
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החיבוק של זאר אמיר איברהימי ואשקן חטיבי בפסטיבל ונציה
החיבוק של זאר אמיר איברהימי ואשקן חטיבי בפסטיבל ונציה
Censored picture of Zar Amir Ebrahimi hugging Ashkan Khatibi
(Photo: Screengrab)
Regarding reports about the arrival of the two Iranians at the Venice Film Festival, local media provided little information, especially concerning Amir Ebrahimi, who was said to be "promoting a new film." Notably, details such as the film's name, its plot that blends sports and politics inspired by real-life events, and the collaboration with Israeli director Guy Nattiv were completely absent from these reports.
Independent Iranian journalists, however, did positively comment on the film. "This is a historic collaborative event between creators from Iran and Israel," one outlet wrote. "Iranian viewers will recognize in the film true stories that happened to athletes like Saeid Mollaei, and Kimia Alizadeh, and the creators drew inspiration from their stories. This is a tale that clearly expresses opposition to Islamic society, especially from women who aspire to fulfill their goals beyond the ideological goals of the Islamic Republic.”
Another critic wrote: "The view that 'Tatami' presents is an important example of films that touch on Iran and reflect the difficulties and significance of civilian resistance in Iran."
In an interview with The Independent in Persian, journalist Ali Mosleh said that "the fact that 'Tatami' was made by Zar Amir Ebrahimi in collaboration with an Israeli director is an historic event. This is the first time that directors from these two countries appeared at the Venice Film Festival together, and what's interesting is that the story is also about Iran and Israel, and it's a film we've never seen before, so it's intriguing."
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הפלאש מוב בפסטיבל ונציה
הפלאש מוב בפסטיבל ונציה
Protest for women's rights in Iran at the Venice Film Festival
(Photo: Kate Green / Stringer / Getty Images)
He also discussed how the women's protest in Iran has raised the voices of both exiled Iranian filmmakers and the international community. "The relations between international festivals and Iranian cinema have changed completely, and the authorities themselves have been removed from the equation," he said.
Filmmakers united at an event in Venice, expressing their support for the Iranian women's movement, chanting the name of Mahsa Amini, the young woman whose death while in the custody of Iran's modesty police ignited protests in the country.
Nattiv, who often expresses his support for Iranian women on social media, demonstrated in Venice and was photographed on the red carpet, along with others, calling "Freedom for All.”
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