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. Real Darkness

    To belive in the Next life, there are so many signs God has given, First look at your own creation, you were nothing then God mad you from a dirty sperm, that is one sign, secondly look at your surrounding, biggest signs are how this earth rotates around sun and moon. How God has created the whole universe. Now if someone still has doubt about Next Life, then to me there is something wrong with his brain and need to see doctor right away.

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

      Read a science book. god had nothing to do with it...god had nothing to do with anything. Stop spreading misinformation.

      Religion is like history class, without the facts.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • UncleBen

      "dirty sperm?" Excuse me?

      Speak for yourself.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samarah

      Why does everyone from a certain part of the world seem to use these same ideas as "evidence".....government-issued science textbooks that are laced with religious verses?????
      Come on, sperm is NOT dirty. It's sad that you think so.
      And, the earth does NOT rotate around the moon. You had the sun part right, though.
      Peace!

      January 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Isolationist

    Let's save those poor under privileged people.

    Send me all of your old playboy magazines and fly over Iran and drop them like leaflets.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratpack007

      haha, now I could support that kind of bombing of Iran! Maybe after everyone rubs one out they'll be a little more mellow.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Augie

    Organized religion is a scam. Unless you worship ice cream. Hail Ben & Jerry!

    January 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      I'm with the church of Baskin Robbins myself. I lean towards bubblegum ice cream.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isolationist

      Religion should be home made. You get it from an organization and it will be loaded with artificial flavors.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samarah

      LOL...I worship at the altar of Chocolate Fudge at the Baskin Robbins Temple. I also consume the Nutty Coconut to symbolically become one with the body of......ice cream. From time to time I sing the praises of......a Banana Royale.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sara

    Way to go Golshifteh .We love you girl.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bill constantine

    Ii am giving up religion. I feel that it is immodest to take a pee or a crap. What women do with out breasts..What happens when one cannot pee....Is peeing immoral or takeing a dump...Do the Iranians fart or is that against the moslem rreligion..I am a senior of 81 years of age. I spoke to mohammed the other day and wants people to sart leading their selfs and quit using him as the reason..He has no problem with women. All men came from a womens bdy. she chose to delier the baby or have it..

    January 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samarah

      Right on! Let's repeat that: ALL MEN CAME FROM A WOMAN'S BODY!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratpack007

      I agree, but didn't they also come from a man's body? Or do women create their own sperm now?

      January 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Well actually, Muhammed was a warlord who created the Koran to unite tribal soldiers under rules and fear. He also had a 9 year old wife. Yes, 9. He could care less about the rights of women.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. Born To Scream

    It is good that a company in France wants her nude picture.

    I volunteer to post nude FREE but no magazines want to have my nude pictures. Think about it folks. :).

    January 20, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. This women should be St..... to death

    This women should not live anymore. Then there will be peace, around the world Please comment if you feel the same way.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ya

      that's right.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • michaekmck

      You are the enemy.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • ratpack007

      I smell sarcasm. Well played.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rodeo_Joe

    FREEDOM. Embrace the Chaos.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. john b

    why would she do that!
    i would not f0ck her if you paid me!
    arabs need to be shot and killed and eradicated from mother earth

    January 20, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Dude, Iranians are not Arab! You are better to pick up a book and read and learn instead of commanding execution of people! Even if they were Arab, there is no reason to kill the people based on race! Do we really need to have such a discussion in 2012?! Grow up, please!

      January 21, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. rahaa

    we love golshifteh (from iran)

    January 20, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. michaekmck

    A backwards, male dominated culture controls women by falsely shaming them into 'modesty'.
    It's all about control. Just like racism. Just like Nazism.

    'Modesty' is just a code word for: 'You Are To Be Treated Like An Animal'.

    If I were a woman in this or any other country that enforces 'modesty' (control) over me...

    I would quietly find funding and recruit members to train as a female fighting force. When I have sufficient numbers and training, I would assemble and attempt all peaceful means of change. When that fails, as it would, I would attack.

    Seriously. The women of these male dominated countries need to revolt. By any means necessary... but peaceful at first.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • john b

      you obviously flunked history 101
      whether u like it or agree with it is immaterial
      to the victor go the spoils
      the victor gets to write the rules, revise history and whatever else it sees fit to do

      January 20, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. a slozomby

    im guessing the mullah's will spend a long time staring at this in the interest of furthering their knowledge of western culture.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. erin andrews perky breasts

    BRB GOOGLE!

    January 20, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. erin andrews perky breasts

    she's got a nice body!

    January 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. michaekmck

    What's hilarious is that all these men get all wound up working so hard to control women...

    ...when it's so much better not to.

    Trust me. You'll live longer. You'll be happier. Your blood pressure will go down. All of this is inside your heads.

    Economically, you'll do better, too. When you abuse and humiliate 50% of your population, what's your GDP going to look like?

    January 21, 2012 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • VegasRage

      Well said

      January 21, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      Great post.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • SKS

      100 % True. Well said.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
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