Nude Iranian movie star ignites firestorm
Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani's photo has spurred thousands of reactions on Facebook.
January 20th, 2012
04:03 PM ET

Nude Iranian movie star ignites firestorm

A photo and video of a famous Iranian actress baring her breasts have gone viral this week, igniting a fiery debate among Iranians.

Golshifteh Farahani appears topless, cupping her breasts, in a photo in the French magazine Madame Le Figaro. Also, a video apparently made by a French film academy, features the actress looking directly into a camera as she disrobes. She stands with her breasts uncovered. Soon after the images hit the Web, reaction was swift inside Iran, where Farahani gained fame in state-sponsored movies that forbid the mere touching of hands.

"The fate of an actress, who left her own country and joined Hollywood, has been nothing but immorality," the semi-official Fars News Agency wrote this week. "The actress who once played the role of caring and decent mothers of Iran has now auctioned off her modesty and honor in front of the Western cameras."

Farahani reportedly moved to France shortly after making history in the Iranian film industry by being the first Iranian to star in a Western film. In 2008, she played a nurse in "Body of Lies" with Leonardo DiCaprio.

It's unclear if the actress currently lives in France. Her agency in Paris declined a CNN interview request as Facebook, Twitter and blogs lit up with incendiary remarks about her. Some say Farahani has betrayed Islam and Iran for revealing her body. Other posters are supportive. They cheer her boldness and defend her right to self-expression.

Several Facebook pages have popped up in recent days with notes encouraging visitors to re-post the photo and video. A wall post Thursday appeared on a Facebook page that appears to belong to the actress. The message, carrying Farahani's name, says, "We have to open our mind!!"

Among other comments on Facebook:

"She is really brave, and I am proud of her. She shows what she believes in and it has nothing to do with others."

"Along with me and all my friends, we are really proud of you."

"I'm ashamed to call you an Iranian."

"Good for you Golshifteh dear! For once an Iranian with guts has come out to show we are just like anyone else in this world. You can model and do whatever you like, just like every woman from Los Angeles to Tokyo."

CNN reached Iranians inside the country Thursday night.

None wanted their last name published, saying they feared government reprisal for speaking to Western media. Yasmin, a 22-year-old student from Tehran, called Farahani "irresponsible" for posing nude.

"What did she think? She could pose topless in Paris, and then come back to Tehran, cover up again, and everything will be fine?" Yasmin said. "She should have thought about that before she did it. I understand she is an actress and artist, but she also has an Iranian passport."

Daroush, a 32-year-old English teacher in Shiraz, said he suspects the photo and video were purely publicity stunts to further Farahani's film career. "As an Iranian inside Iran, I knew who Golshifteh Farahani was, but did Americans or Brits?" he asked. "Probably not, but now they know. Smart woman."

Fereshteh, a 56-year-old retired schoolteacher in Tehran, is pleased to see the actress breaking a taboo, even if "her actions are against Iranian culture." Amin, a 34-year-old Web designer in Shiraz, said he didn't understand what all the fuss is about.

"Women in Hollywood pose like this daily," he said. "Why should an Iranian be treated differently? Because we are Muslims? There are Muslims all over the world who are models, actresses, artists that pose like this."

Mohammed, a 40-year-old engineer who lives in the city of Isfahan, said the actress "should be ashamed of herself."

He also said he felt actors and actresses have a tough time working in Iran, and Farahani posing nude will only make their jobs more difficult.

Mary Apick agrees. Three decades ago, Apick was a huge movie star in Iran, winning a best actress award for her role in an Iranian film at the Moscow Film Festival. She said performers in Iran will likely feel more pressure to adhere to the regime's notion of strict Islamic code in both their performances on screen and their personal life.

"They will be scrutinized more, no doubt," she said.

On Thursday, Apick watched the video of Farahani while CNN.com interviewed her. "I cannot believe what I'm seeing," she said. "She can never go back to Iran. No way. No way on Earth. Oh, I empathize with this beautiful young actress. No one has ever done anything like this. This is truly the bravest, boldest thing I've ever seen."

Apick lives in the United States, and has forged a successful career as a playwright, actress and activist in the West. She's lauded for writing and starring in the play "Beneath the Veil," which interweaves stories of women struggling for their rights.

"It was impossible to be an actress in Iran when I was there, and it's not gotten easier. It's become harder. There is no honest art, so there is no art. The regime has no interest in women, (especially not) strong women characters in movies," she said.

To get a film made and released in Iran, she said, a filmmaker must first shoot and produce the piece. Funding is up to them. They are required to present the finished product to Iranian authorities who view it and censor it if they feel it steps outside Islamic code. Government authorities then decide whether to issue a permit for the film's release. No permit, no movie.

Mehdi Semati, a media professor at Northern Illinois University who has written extensively about Iranian films, has been monitoring Internet chatter and listening to his Iranian students lively discussions the photo and video. They are split, mirroring comments online, he said.

He has been particularly surprised by the reaction of one student who subscribes to a rather hard-line pro-regime viewpoint. The student wasn't as harsh as Semati expected him to be. "I could tell it really made him think," he said.

"It almost doesn't matter what (Farahani's) intent was," the professor said. "Farahani posing this way shows that even Iran's highly proscribed, controlled filmmaking industry does not have total control, even over an icon of their own making."

Even more significantly, he added, it demonstrates that the Iranian regime cannot prevent anyone with access to the Web from judging for themselves.

Saskya Vandoorne, Anna Prichard and Niki Cook contributed to this report.

soundoff (1,071 Responses)
  1. roadwarrior

    you go girl freedom of expression is everyones god given right

    January 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • US guy

      God never gave the right to Immorality.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOB

      US guy, I bet you had "fun" reading this didn't you? What nonsecular state are you living in, anyway?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • tommas

      God has never given us anything, we gave ourselves our rights.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mario

      I hope all females in your family using this freedom of expression. Do you mind sending some freedom of expression pics over (skip the over 40 and under 18 ones)

      January 20, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. roadwarrior

    when you got flaunt it

    January 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. james

    Is she any different looking that Non-Muslims ???

    January 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest

      Just more facial hair on chix from that part of the globe.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. VRage13

    Hey Iran, while you are getting upset that you can no longer control one of your former citizens, we citizens in America are getting upset that our gov't is wanting more control over us.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cleo

    Daroush, a 32-year-old English teacher in Shiraz, said he suspects the photo and video were purely publicity stunts to further Farahani's film career. "As an Iranian inside Iran, I knew who Golshifteh Farahani was, but did Americans or Brits?" he asked. "Probably not, but now they know. Smart woman."

    Sounds like Daroush is about the smartest person in Iran.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • JLS639

      Yeah, I think Daroush hit the nail on the head. Ironically enough, the Iranian government is doing its part to help her advance her career this way.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. eyeris625

    Btrayed Iran and Islam...what a joke.. such nonsense only shows how oppresive is that country. All she has done by exposing her breasts is simply show that she is FREE!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bucky

      Their are Christian groups that would say the same thing if one of their followers did the same thing.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geronimo

      what about idiot evangelicals of South Carolina voting for "Nude" Gingrich? HAHAHA

      January 23, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bucky

    Funny thing is we make fun of Muslim nations for being up tight on this sort of thing when our country goes off the wall on the same sort of thing. Americans aren't exactly pro nudity either. How long was the Janet Jackson controversy a story? i know its slightly different but not all that much.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • tommas

      exactly, we have more than our fair share of crazy fundies

      January 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Um........huh?

      Ar least this chick is gorgeous...I think people were upset at JJ's floppy disc...

      January 20, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rob

    So she is not allowed back into Iran. She should thank them for the opportunity to stay in the United States and not have to go back to that camel loving hell hole.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      Correction: France, vice the USA. The USA has too many puritanics .....

      January 23, 2012 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. gaucho420

    The human body should be celebrated, religion is what should be condemned.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • darlensons

      why is that 'celebration' is mostlily limited to women's body?

      January 21, 2012 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    Pathetic that such feeble minds can't handle the sight of nude body. They have no hope of joining the rest of the planet if they still think in such primitive ways.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tony

    Now that's another way to get asylum. Get naked in front of a camera in a muslim country and ask for asylum in the US.
    Preferably be outside a muslim country and do the above!
    By the way, good for her, she is a free woman and can do whatever she wants in the Western World, rather than being controlled by sadistic Mullahs.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johan S

      Uh she already has asylum you fool. She's already a French citizen.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Return to God

    Modesty i sthe keyword here, God gave us a choice and brains to judge right from wrong. Freedom of expression is limited as we humans are limited. everyone will be judged, in the Hereafter, and it is God who will make that ultimate prosecution and judgment. God said " Oh 'people" fear your Lord the one who created you from single soul, and from him he created his mate and from both..many men and women were created. -"Quran".

    January 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • toxictown

      FFS...if "god" made us (and all our parts) I don't think he would mind.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dale

      You are a delusional moron and your story book is lunacy. Mohammed is a cartoon. Save your pious judgment for the delusional dumb Muslim movie in your head.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • QC

      "God said" hein?... Well, your God is talking of himself at the third person. Sure sign of a BIG ego... I would rather say "Somebody wrote that God said". Unless of course you can show some proof that God actually did said that...

      January 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      So YOU said that your god will judge. .... hmmmm.... Do I think you are making a judgement by even saying that? .... yep!

      January 23, 2012 at 5:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. Louis

    Oh, darn it and egad and gadzooks......(all of which were profanities in their day).....couldn't we get some shots of
    Amadinijad baring his breasts.....now, that would be a crisis of biblical proportion.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • JTK

      Would it be "Biblical" or "Quranic?"

      January 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tommas

    Though the US is better, we should not be to quick to point fingers. We are still quite repressed ourselves... ie janet jackson

    January 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • EatYouAlive

      Janet Jackson. That was disgust, not censorship.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. midogs2

    I still want my drone back.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
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