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. Richard Cheese

    That's ok, Iran. We'll take her. And show her more compassion, equality and opportunity than you ever could. Thanks!

    January 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hippediva

    Got that in one!

    January 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pooya

    And the several comments on this board have again proven, that ignorance still prevails. 🙂

    January 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. HenryMiller

    I've never understood how anyone, Iranian, French, British, American, or anything else, can be so arrogant and presumptuous as to judge the actions of others.

    January 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      That's because Western people are generally good and want freedom for all. Muslims do not. That's the fundamental problem.

      January 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • HenryMiller

      @joe: Or perhaps the fundamentalist's problem.

      January 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Not fundamentalists, all Muslims. Read the Koran.

      January 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Monty

      Henry, What is the legal system?

      January 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. joe

    You sound like a wonderful person.

    January 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Serge Crespy

    Boldness and a right to self-expression? ..... (Sadly) Notoriety attracts money !. Imagine (Could be worse): Golshifteh Farahani being exposed as a nude "he", with breast implants to gain publicity. We must be of the belief that Islam and ALL religions / traditions are deserving of respect. A gradual time-line and much patience for humanity to communicate and evolve into a refined specimen that compliments "A UNIVERSAL GOD".

    January 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      I respect no religions. I respect good people.

      January 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Vish

    A Nude woman especially, a Muslim Woman is the least, problem for the Iranian Muslim Community. Get a life !!

    January 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TeePee

    Looks like American influence has reached Iran...they are in trouble now...STD's, Pediphiles, Perverts, AIDS, Girl on Girl, Man on Man, all that jazz....

    January 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • CheeseSteak

      You mean all those things that might happen in a place where people are FREE from tyranny and abuse?

      January 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iranian

      I grew up there.All that stuff has been there since day one.

      January 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sassan

    What a brave and beautiful sister. The fact is that Islam has no future inside of a free Iran. This regime has done one thing effective: driven Islam out of the hearts and minds of the Iranian people.

    January 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TeePee

    so now the Iranian women want to be nasty ho's like the American women?

    January 22, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      I know you'd rather kill them than have them pose nude. However, good people disagree with your dominating egotistical ways.

      January 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • CheeseSteak

      In a FREE coountry where petty tyrants, religious nuts and dictators don't abuse the people, she can be anything she wants.

      January 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. rawrmonster

    Hopefully she'll drop her religion too.

    January 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. lex

    On the one hand, the Iranians are way out hypocritical immoralists who want nuclear weapons and to kill lots of people. On the other hand, there is something to be said for a nation that wants to maintain moral standards.

    Ah, what the hell. The Iranian government should be overthrown.

    January 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • CheeseSteak

      Moral standards? Whose? Yours, mine or the Ayatollahs? I'll take a FREE country like the USA where I can be anything I want to be within out democratic laws. And when Tea Party or Evangelical tyants try to say otherwise, we vote the OUT!

      Enjoy being a slave

      January 22, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      @CheeseSteak The US isn't exactly Free, we are all slaves to the Almighty dollar, that little piece of paper that controls everything in our lives, including the governments. So even if we are not religious/doctrine slaves, we are still slaves to the system.

      We still have a long way to go my friend. The Freedom you see is just an illusion of what should be true freedom.

      January 31, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. shabat

    I love the western society where they permote women nudity and they get up set when any one oppose it but when they go around the world and invade countries and killed thousand of innocent people and justifies it in the name of freedom.
    what a great civilization!!!!!!!!

    January 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Well people of the West genuinely believe that deep down, people want to be free, and their governments Just. It's inconceivable to many, how so many people willingly kill and persecute each other for reasons that are inhuman. Sure, a lot of mistakes are made along the way, but the thought is, that if a dictator is removed, that people will rise up and fight their persecution. Although this thought comes from a good place, it's Juvenile when most Muslims are like yourself, and relish in degrading 50 percent of the people for your own amusement, and fighting others because some groups believe they knew Muhammed best? Muhammed was a child raping, second-rate warlord who made up stories in order to unite tribes through fear. And yet, you love to follow him, because it makes YOU feel important.

      January 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. 阿龍

    Sounds like reading a passage from a 40 yr. old newspaper, if these people don't know what backward means, look in the mirror.

    January 22, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. D

    She should be ashamed...Just by stripping down doesn't make you civilized..it makes you even more backwards..Why? Wasn't nudeness the fashion of the caveman...What is this? Year 1...There is something called "shame". No wonder our generation is screwed!

    January 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • NDA

      Yes, as in "SHAME on you for thinking you have the right to tell women what they can do with their bodies."

      January 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • jason

      D: you are probably fat and ugly that's why you think it's shameful for her to do what she's doing.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      What does it matter to you if she gets nude or not?

      January 22, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      You simplly do not deserve to live in this planet!

      January 22, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hannah

      I think if her reason for posing nude was for human rights in Iran, then word of mouth is far more effective than stripping. Simply stripping doesn't make someone a hero, it is by their actions and words toward a cause or against a dictator regime. Heros were those who put their lives on stake and marched outside in the streets of their country not knowing if they will come home that night. That is a hero.

      January 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
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