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. CF

    This is obviously just a publicity stunt to help her start a career in the US or something.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • streetheat1

      Really? Do ya think?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MisterK

    I think it's overblown too. That said, we should all keep in mind that it's a matter of perspective. If it was her vagina, we'd say she was crossing the line. We just happen to live in a society where one is Ok and the other isn't. People look down on the crazy guys who walk around naked in San Francisco (it does happen... I've seen it several times). We just use our own norms as a measure against all others and it just isn't. I think people should be free to express themselves also, but I don't think there's a "right" in all this. Except that I don't like the idea of killing someone for it at all.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. whut

    Nice tatas..

    January 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rational Viewpoint

    Funny how quick we all are to judge when in this very country similar-minded people have a real chance of taking over.

    Michele Bachmann signed a pledge to ban pornography from the U.S., among other nonsensical promises to restore "morality" to our nation. Christians are just as intolerant of nudity as any other religion.

    The best idea: ditch the phony spiritualism known as "religion" and marvel at the miracle of life.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    On the date, that either the photos were taken or released for the public, did anyone check with the USGS to see if they had an earthquake inside Iran? I remember that a few years ago, some cleric stated that "the flashing of Women's boobs, caused earthquakes".

    January 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • dike

      not earthquakes but a lot of shaking....

      January 20, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tom

    You'd think CNN would have the common decency to show us her boobs. CNN u suck!!

    January 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • gliese42

      CNN is ruled by the oil rich Arabs

      January 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. c bradley street

    I AM PLACING A FATWA ON HER AND HER FAMILY!!!!!!!! She can come live in sin with me in california where i see worse blasphomys on the beach every day..... religion makes people weird.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnQ

      Or is it "People make wierd religions."?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. michael

    www . haaretz . com/news/international/uproar-after-jewish-american-newspaper-publisher-suggests-israel-assassinate-barack-obama-1.408429 Uproar after Jewish American newspaper publisher suggests Israel assassinate Barack Obama

    why no mention cnn? garbage jew media

    January 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Izoto

    She's screwed.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • streetheat1

      She's in Hollywood! She already has been!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Think

    As a Muslim man the female body terrifies me and makes me tingle in my wicked man bits. She must be punished for my sinfully tickling man bits.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. kauvery

    every body respect their own value s iof religion,and everybody is free here in this world,she or he can do what ever they wanted to do.This is very normal today,she has right what ever she wanted to do,Please ,she is normal human,do not mix anything serious,She not hurm anybody.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John Kantor

    Men only complain about nudity when they want to control women.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. john cougar mellencamp

    Maybe they will have a centerfold of her with a mullah inside her. All these religious leaders are either pedophiles womanizers or freaks. What gets me is their HYPOCRISY

    January 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jackie Treehorn

    Religious fundamentalism is the real obscenity.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Real Darkness

    Every soul will carry his/her burden on the Day of Judgment and you will get,what you sow in this life. If you do evil, you will get evil place and you do good, then what can be better than that.(paradise) God has given you a choice to do good and evil, now it is up to man.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      uuuuuuuuu.... that's scary!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      ok, freak...

      January 20, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Augie

      Well it looks like Farahani is heading to paradise b/c she looks good!

      Oh, you're a nut job.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • chazzz

      What exactly do you base this statement of Day of Judgment on? Exactly what sort of emprical evidence can you offer to confirm that there is such a thing as "Day of Judgment" and that you god exists? And by what name does your god go? Thor? Zeus? Aphrodite?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Actually, that's not true. When you die, you simply cease to exist. There is no transfer of energy, no spirit, no soul, etc. You just die.

      Religion is nothing but power and control through fear. There is, never has been and never will be a god...heaven...hell or any other imaginary place.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marine5484

      So being naked is considered evil to you? Gessi.....must be hard taking a shower.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • power4things

      Can you fly a 767?

      January 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
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