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. flybycommenter

    How insignificant. People are starving all over the world and this is Iran's biggest complaint... a starlet honing her craft of imagery and entertainment. What a lark.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Thomas Covenant

    If she was playing a car bomber that would be fine with them. Hypocrites.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. josh

    nuke iran .....new texas

    January 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • armin

      hows about we gas your house with your whole family inside and call it a new graveyard

      January 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      "If I owned Hell and Texas, I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell." -John Sherman

      January 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Weix

      armin...is that how they do it in Iran?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonG

      @Jim Weix – bend over and I'll show you how they do it in Iran.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ira Radnick

    Big deal, I bare my breasts all the time. Just a bunch of skin, after all. Of, mine have no mammary glands. I guess that makes a difference, eh?

    January 20, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jim

    The arrogance of these people is astounding. The fact that they believe they have the right to condemn her for her actions based on the fact that she and they were born in relative geographical proximity, surrounded by human-manufactured, yet completely artificial, 'borders' is ridiculous. Go home, Iran – mind your business. This young woman has left your small-mindedness behind.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • iranrulz

      jim, don't keep on the light, ur too ugly – she ain't coming- now go and jerrrk off

      January 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mrgmorgan56

    Who cares? The fact that the extreme right in Iran cares shows how shallow and idiotic they are.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. polycarp pio

    If this is what she does with her freedom of expression, she doesnt deserve it. She needs a good lashing and some lessons in modesty. PP

    January 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • mrgmorgan56

      Idiot.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Weix

      Modesty...such a stupid idea. Modesty is what ugly people practice.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Sounds good.I'll give her a tongue lashing,a punishment she will enjoy.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marquise

      Violence seems to be the only solution to solve Islams problems. Beating women what a cowardly act!

      January 20, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • pauseforamoment

      I think you miss the point of Miss Golshifteh's decision. Look beyond your obvious moral filter.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BJJSchecter

    Hot naked chicks, how could anyone complain!? Don't watch if you don't like it!

    January 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • ArchieDeBunker

      I agree – I won't watch it. Now, tell me how to keep my grandchildren from watching it – so they won't grow up to be ANYTHING like you . . . .

      January 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Oh Iran

    Always a day late and a dollar short. Complaining about the US, yet buying our iPhones and our macbook pro's and all of our other technological inventions. Why is it that you Iranians are not a hub for anything creative or innovative? Because you care about things like a woman baring her breasts.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. matt houston

    Oh no! She can't do that! She'll make Iranians the same level as human beings!!! Curse her!!! I'm going to jump off a bridge now!!! Aaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonG

      ... and humanity wont lose a thing if you jump off a bridge right now.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ctguy

    it's something how religions can turn the human body into something dirty !!!

    January 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Weix

      LOL...priests like dirty little boys

      January 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cyrus

    Good for her! Very few Iranians have the balls to stand out and scream "it is my life and I will live how I see fit!" though she never said that but her actions did. I am a Iranian and I proud that she is one of us. See we are not all hairy gorillas.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • pauseforamoment

      As an apple-pie American, I stand with you, Cyrus!

      January 20, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. studdmuffins

    Those Iranian perv' Imams must be up late at night looking at, I mean – for this stuff.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ReligionIs4Dolts

    So when is Iran going to issue a FATWA against this chick? I've already got my FAT-ONE issued!

    January 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. pauseforamoment

    Does anyone sense the noose tightening around Iran's political/ideological neck? God speed, Golshifteh, not to demean the Iranian culture or its people, but to put yet another nail-in-the-coffin to the repressive government forces which your people face.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonG

      I'm glad finally i found someone here that has the mental capability to draw a line between Iranian people and the ruling gang in there.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • iranrulz

      ok retardo, don't comment if you dont even havea passport. get all ur news from us media n prounounce urself very informed about the world

      January 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39