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. Nicolette

    What is all this nonsense about "morality"? Since when is a human body "immoral"? If these so-called people who rail against her believe in any kind of god, surely they believe that that deity created humans AND their bodies. What hypocritical nutjobs.

    I applaud Ms. Farahani for her bravery and her commitment to her art.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tim Sanders

    Beautiful without being vulgar. She is a human being first and foremost and can decide her own future. I am sure she thought of the consequences of doing this picture. Hopefully she has the talent that exceeds her beauty and daring nature. I wish her well and hope whatever country she chooses (or allows her to choose) as home realizes the asset they have gained.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. stephen lonewolf makama

    wow! another american propaganda maybe- hmmm wonder if Ahmadinejad looked...

    January 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Propaganda? So you are saying this actually never happened and/or Iranians in Iran are NOT angry about this? or what??

      January 27, 2012 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. Edwin S.

    As they say, when in Rome. Translation? If that's what she felt like doing, if that is the only way she knows to gain fame, although not garanteed, more power to her however, she can't expect the people of Iran to be accepting about it when it's not part of their culture. Just as we, the hypocrites, you know, we the folks of the USA who want to dictate to everyone, expect for the rest of the world to respect us well then, tolerance begins with tolerance. Iran has their religious beliefs and practices and we are NO better. We find their system archaic and they find fault with ours. Who right? Who's wrong? To each his own. This actress can do whatever she likes anywhere else, just not in Iran but at least, I can respect the two. Unfortunately for her, visiting Iran anytime soon or at all will be prohibitive at best.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      The difference is we know better
      Well, "I" know better

      January 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Sorry, I have no room in my heart to respect Islamic culture. I know their beliefs, and who they are. I know some are good people, but their fundamental beliefs are about punishment and oppression. It's sad that 1,400 years ago their culture was more advanced than they are now. I guess that's what happens when you worship child-raping warlords who talk to angels at night.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      As a human being with good moral standards it is impossible for me to "tolerate" anything like this. Nothing "hypocritical about it.

      January 27, 2012 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bruce Myers

    Don't be surprised if she turns up dead in the next 60 days. I for one won't be surprised in the least if she does. To say that the practice of Islam in Iran is a tolerant religion would be an oxymoron.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. The Woof

    I congratulate her on her courageous act but at the same time I now also fear for her life. May God protect you from any reprisals that may possibly lie ahead.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lou

    Who really cares what some backwards assed living in the 15th century camel jockies think? Who would want to live in a cesspool of intolerance where the women have to cover thier entire body becuase some smelly male can't control his libido?
    Good for her. Im sure she is glad she is out of that hole.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ninoos

    Westerners call this an art. Moral standards at its best.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      So did the Greeks and Italians who... you know... were the best artists in the world. The naked human form is natural and beautiful, no matter what religion is brought into it.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. Dewey Oxberger

    So a nice rack, and your a human rights activist,

    January 25, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. kappykatz

    I applaud this young lady's decision, for whatever reason, to defy Iran and Islam. Fear NOT of reprisals people, FEAR is like ISLAM, it's meant to repress and imprison....especially for women, sadly. Support this global change with encouragement for everyone trapped in that hell! We shall overcome! FREEDOM IS GOD! Worship now!

    January 25, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dino Droppings

    I liked that 77 year old iranian guys response.........
    as he was drooling over his keyboard.

    January 25, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  12. SQ

    Yet another woman gets naked and everyone applauds.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gaping Labia Lips

    Okay, I'll see if this goes through.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. fastball

    Somebody's in for a good stoning when she gets back!

    January 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Recovering Republican

    Amazing how hundreds of years of Religious oppression in Iran are going to end over a picture of a booby. Just wait, after they get HBO, it is game over for the mullahs. The Arab Spring in on, and this genie is not going back into its bottle. I think condom sales in Iran are going o be throught the roof in just afew years.

    January 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Micah

      Ummm, for starters, Iran is not Arab. So don't be cliche and talk about the Arab Spring. It hasn't even hit Iran. Secondly, they already get HBO, or at least all the shows on HBO which are popularly downloaded or sold in the streets on DVD-R copies. Even in Saudi Arabia they got all that. We are not living in caves or mud huts

      January 30, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
    • derp

      "We are not living in caves or mud huts"

      Uh, they were when I visited Iran.

      January 30, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roberto

      The Arab spring? It has only resulted in the takeover of "moderate" islamic countries by hard-line islamists. Not much of a contrast with the hard-line islamist leadership in Iran....

      February 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
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