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. RUFFNUTT

    that's one iranian i'd like to give a nuclear missle..
    .
    i bet you here missle silo is nice...

    January 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. M

    Dear Billy , I'm so sorry for u ,ur deduction is wrong , we don't like our Government but our interests r in contrary with urs and ur country , with any independant government in iran the confilict of our nations is something predictable and mandatory.. let's face it

    January 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. M

    its only Satanism that invites people to get naked in public and be a lewd

    January 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      get well soon

      January 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • hez316

      Adam and Eve were naked in the garden.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • GB

      Oh Satan! Fill me with your GLORY!

      January 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TheBodyBeautiful

    The body is beautiful. Show it off!!!

    January 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • zakki

      haha,u like it,a very good reason why u support it.lol,she got to be herself,and whoever don't like it should not watch it.am not perfect,she is not perfect u are not perfect we are all siners.maybe she is better than us...Respect to all muslims and everyone

      January 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. joey

    persian kitty

    January 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. zakki

    what the matter with all those ill comments,am a muslim too but come on,she can do what ever she like,cause it in her own grave she would lie down alone some day.she faces her destiny,Nobody should be worried about that,let think about ourselves and better the kind of lives we are living.As a muslim all u need to do is respect others and they would respect you back.heed to that my muslim brothers.and to the non muslims too, cool down the hate,it ain't worthy.goodness is earned with goodness.the more hate would never bring anything nice...
    I love islam,i respect it and never leaving it,but we all need corrections,let make a good islam to be loved.Peace

    January 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. M

    tell me what pills do u take every night? maybe i decide to have some to get well like u

    January 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • zakki

      i don't take any pill,i try to promote peace as a true muslim should do
      because unger don't yeaild anything.i know how u feel.but u should know you as a good muslim would not pose naked for all to see,so why get so much worried when someone has done it,she might not be a muslim inside.so it ok for her she shows who she is.You need to show the good side of islam and not concerned with the bad others do

      January 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      We are in the same boat

      Oppression only works if the oppressors can redirect the people's anger.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DefCon5

    Can't wait for an invasion of Iran. A republican president will surely invade Iran. Lets go baby lets go!

    January 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      we r counting day's to meet u pig's... if u dare to fight a country with more than 25 mil people..

      January 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      Don't play too much video games Mr Defcon... u need more defcon number's in this case.. defcon 5,6,7,8,..........................................

      January 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • zakki

      haha,warmonger-pls we want peace.lol.kill the hatred.there is no solutioin with war.love wins

      January 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Lol, Iraq beat you back in the day... I doubt it would be an issue.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. adamthefirst

    Were the photos before or after she shaved her chest?

    January 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. M

    I'm wondering why do u all wear cloth? use ur freedom... u live only once

    January 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      Because some times it is cold.

      Is there any other reason?

      January 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bill

    (M ) Please explain why, if Iran had a Democratic goverment, would our governments have a " predictable and mandatory conflict" ???

    January 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      Billy,we all know Iran's government is not Demotratic at all like many other countries ... like Russia ,china,..... so why do ur governments focoused on Iran?it's only b/c of some secret interests.. be sure if the western countries continue harder sanction's or military action's our whole nation will respond not only the regime

      January 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      Who's secret?

      January 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rev. Atwell

    The Iranian people have been beaten, tortured, mained, marginalized and brainwashed for decades by a fanatical regime that uses so-called "religion" as an excuse to retain absolute, total control. It's beyond time to tear down this vile, toxic control system and replace it with something that resembles a course to sanity. Far from trafficing in a "religion of peace", this abberation basically says, "we love our brothers and sisters- and if you draw a picture of moe-hommad or show your ta-tas, we'll cut your f****ing head off and throw acid on you". Toxic swine. Time for a total Iranian top-to-bottom revolution.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      I prefer to be beaten,tourured,mained,marginalized, and brain washed by my own government and people not by ur soldier.. we all have seen the peace and freedom which the western countries has brought to Iraq ,Afghanestan and ...
      western Freedom's monster can kill people as well

      January 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      Corruption is ok as long as it is our corruption?

      See? We really are in the same boat!

      January 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ThinkingMan

    A dose of nudity can be found in so many religious paintings. Probably not theirs.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. M

    Zakki.. I'm not worried of her or what she has done.. i'm not concerned.. but I don't like the way they maximize her action ..( like she breaked the Taboos) what Taboo? what she has done? her action is not even useful for herself..and some other Idiot's who don't know anything of Iran had written some caustic sentences

    January 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ClearAndPresentThinking

    First there were no gays in Iran; now, Iranians have no breasts? Abumbleinmyhead needs to get a life as do the morons he works for.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sherri

      This is what you get when you merge state and religion. When they say state sponsored, they mean Islamic. Islam rules the country. It rules every aspect of their lives. What they wear, drink, eat, etc. Remember that.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
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