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 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. Will

    In case anybody doubted that muslims are all secretly queeer.

    Iranian women - come to USA. We'll show you what real men who appreciate beautiful women look like, and please you in ways that Iranian men are incapible of.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonG

      @ will – you dont need to worry about that. there are enough decent men inside Iran who can appreciate women's beauty better than you and your tiny willy.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • iranrulz


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

      If you're a niGaaa, then forget about any woman in the world wanting to be with you except trashy hos in US.
      if you're white then you ain't getting any in your country and daydreaming that somehow women in other parts of the world find you attractive. If no hottie looks at you here in the US, then hotties across the world think the same. Just give up or better yet commit suicide

      January 20, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. deist

    This sounds no different than those U.S. "christian" bible thumpers when they're preaching about morals and values, then o on to ask their wives to accept their m istresses. The Iranian "outrage" is not different thant he "american" evangelical outrage. So STOP POINTING FINGERS! You're all hypocrits!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • ctguy

      I agree !

      January 20, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chris

    i would blast one on her. and she would love it! just sayin'.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • iranrulz

      you can't get any in the US so stop your daydreams and instead unload on your pillow you loner

      January 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bill

    iranian women have breasts?

    January 20, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnAbtor

      Does your mother have breasts?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. All They Are Is

    Those Iranians need to get over their pathetic ways of still living in B.C. times! Enough is enough already! What is so hypocritical of them is what the men can do but not the women. That's why Iran is seen as being less than a third world country and one that will Never progress, Never be liked, Never be supported, Never be accepted, Never be honored and Never be respected! Until you change your evil ways of looking at people, Iran, you're DIRT! Just plain D-I-R-T. DIRT!!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Read the read! Majority of Iranians are supporting her!

      January 21, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Not Supporting Her

      Yes, some people may be supporting her, Ben, but what really counts is the government of that country supporting her and They AREN'T! That is why there is an outcry over that pathetic poor excuse for a country that seeks world domination and domination over women as well.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jesse

    I wonder how many supporters of this woman are also bashers of the "immoral liberals of Hollywood"?

    January 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kevin

    That is awesome. Someone give this girl US citizenship for slapping Iran's psychotic government in the face
    before they hand down an insane punishment for expressing herself.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. shawn955

    What is cheap way to get pblicity. For Auction

    January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. larry_flynt

    i fully support bare breasts! link please?

    January 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Link!

      January 21, 2012 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. elda

    I would like to know what Ahmadinejad thinks of all the cuban girls walking almost naked around Habana, after his recent visit to Cuba. It did not stopped him from getting acquainted with the Castro brothers.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. I have one thing to say...

    allyhoo ackbar!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rtmin

    Maybe if it was a goat with Achmadenawhatever mounting it.. then all of the iranian headbangers would be cranking out a batch to it.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. AlphiaWyeEvans

    I am so happy Ms. Gol. appeared naked in order to express her passion for the universal and timeless beauty of the human body. Iranian bodies look just like French bodies look just like Italian look just like German look just like Armenian look just like you know what i mean Winning Winning #wiining

    January 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SpiderCNN

    what is the point of appearing naked? if it is the freedom of expression and/or speech, are there not better ways to do so! I think there are!
    I think this bunch just wanted attention and they certainly have succeeded.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. SpiderCNN

    That said ... i certainly enjoyed the pics and don't mind more of it. 🙂

    January 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
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