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. Overyonder

    Advice: Never go back to Iran. They WILL get you.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Ya Think?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • lame

      Nothing that money and a Khamenei fatwa can't fix. Particularly if Khamenei's son is looking for a hot fifth wife.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karl Dick Bush Rove

      It's the Iranian P0RN Paradox.
      How do the Iranian Authorities know she was naked. Did they look at the pictures? But purposely doing that is wrong in itself, no? So, if they didn't look at her nude pictures, how do they know she was really nude?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. joe

    Any society that forces women not to get nude, for all of us to enjoy, is obviously gay.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • sonbo

      they do have a thing for young boys, so I guess you may be on to something.

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

      Joe I take it that you will be fine if your wife, sister, or daughter exposed their bodies for my enjoyment?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Augie

      Sorry joe but according to Ahmadinejad there are no gays in Iran.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thhhhhpppppp!

      I agree with Joe, Gay!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sonbo

    They are also angry because she bathes on a regular basis with warm water and soap, which is strictly forbidden. She is one of the few Iranians who does not smell like a billy goat.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wavejump1100

    what does iran have against the human body?

    January 20, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thhhhhpppppp!

      Nothing, they just preffer goats.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. fiskenmann

    the ayatollahs are just jealous they couldn't get any from her

    January 20, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jose

    That's a lot of fuss for so little breast.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Real Darkness

    Those fools think that by doing evil, they can get away from the wrath of Creator, they are indeed in illusion and in great error. God has surrounded them from all corners and they have no escape from His harsh punishment. HE has given every tyrant, murderer and evil doer some respite, but when an Angel of Death will reach his throat, he will know at that moment his real status. They think, they can kill, committ adultery and do whatever they like, they are really mistaken. God is indeed a Watcher over you.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thhhhhpppppp!

      Are you on something or do you just not know what your talking about?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • IServed

      Hint: God does not take sides! Why would she/he/it? This barbaric notion of control over other's lives is insane and no better than the Jonestown result – just insane...

      January 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Thhhhhpppppp!

    Iran is gay, ha ha!

    January 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Augie

    If we spent more time focusing on boobies than bombs, the world would be a better place. Except for the Iranian leaders, they're anti-booby morons.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thhhhhpppppp!

      Hey! They are pro-goat, that stand for something doesn't it.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Isolationist

    Sounds like Iranians are almost as uptight as mainstream Americans

    January 20, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thhhhhpppppp!

      What a troll. Please go back under the bridge.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. fedupwithla

    My guess is that people in Iran have never ever heard of nudity. It's a wonder that they are still capable of reproduction, but they probably have to have permission from the neighborhood ayatollah to do so.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. oobie

    Those people thinking ill of her need to pull their heads out of their asses. She isn't obligated to meet anyone's expectations. It is her life to do as she chooses.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mikey

    I only watch G or PG movies so her career will not be helped by me. Having said that I understand what goes on behind Iranian walls is not what it is portrayed to be. The heart of man is wicked who can know it. The laws of Islam will not prevent sin only hide it. Spiritual condition is of the heart.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. fritz

    Nah..there's no god watchin' yah. But the 'LAW' certainly is! And if they catch you, they can send you strait to hell!

    January 20, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guidance

      I thought you were really intelligent person but now i know better, you are the biggest fool.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. Billy

    People should learn how to respect other people's culture. The western culture is not the perfect one or a culture that everyone has to follow. No culture in the world is perfect. In every culture there is good and bad practice. It's not because women are posting nude in Hollywood that every woman in the world should do so. And did you notice? she is the only woman in the video who showed her boobs. Just remimber people, your culture is NOT the BEST.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Sorry, I will not respect a culture that will obviously kill a woman for posing semi-nude if she returns. If someone wants to pose nude, they should. It's called freedom.

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

      nomy culture may not be the best. but some things are beyond cultre. dress, speech, manorisms, fine i can respect ad enjoy differences. but certain beliefs like equality and feedom of expression are beyond culture. these are human rights in my mind, im sorry, theres a line.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marine5484

      So your saying because their culture is different its ok to kill her (which they will). With what you wrote you must of been the guy who came up with the everyone gets a trophy idea.

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

      Any culture that mistreats women such as many of the Mideastern countries do, sorry they do not deserve respect or recognition.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samarah

      You're right, no culture is perfect. However, I feel that all cultures are evolving societally. Iran is apparently VERY far behind with regard to progress, equality, freedom of expression/thought/speech in relation to many other cultures. And this is even though they have a high percentage of educated men and women. So, why is Iran stymied from progress? What is preventing them from these things? America has lots of problems, I agree. But being afraid for your life...for THIS????? I see this as quite serious.....half of Iran's population is being prevented from living honestly.....obstructed from living as who they really are.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ali

      This is a wrong assumption and complete lack of knowledge about Iran. If she returns to Iran she may be harassed but she will not be "obviously" killed. It is a crazy government but not this crazy. Educate yourself.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • BBB

      We don't kill people for being a different culture. They do. That pretty much settles it.
      Who needs to respect other people's cultures again? Or was what you really meant "People should let them murder people over petty crimes like the monsters they are"

      January 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Some cultures ARE worse than others, and some are so bad that they don't deserve any respect whatsoever, they only deserve contempt. For example, cultures in which it's considered acceptable to kill a woman for showing her breasts.

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

      Every culture is different and has it's ups and down. In the west, they eat cows, in India, they worship them. In some countries drug dealing in a capital offense, in other countries you just get sent to rehab. In the west, they arrest, jail or discriminate against blacks and find it impossible to see how this is wrong and won't even admit that it exists. In the East, they treat women like property and they have few if any rights. In the west we see dogs as pets in the east they see them as food. In the west we LOVE pork bar b que. In the east, pig, swine boar are considered not on
      U unfit for human consumption, but just the act of coming into contact with pork damns your would forever.

      We live in an odd, crazy world with many diverse cultures. All have beautiful and loving parts and also ugly and hateful parts.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isolationist

      Did you notice that she was in France respecting the local culture?

      January 20, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Isolationist

      Culture should never be accepted as an excuse to abuse members of any society.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Is Billy your given name or are you hiding behind a pseudonym? Your grammar, or lack of it, gives you away. It is not so much that culture needs respect, but individual freedom. Her actions are no reflection on you or your culture; you are still free to live in the 13th century.

      The fact you needed to watch and critique the video, along with the Supreme Leader, shows you have latent desires cultivated by social repression. For myself, I did not watch it or even care whether some Persian seductress wants to run naked and shake your delusion of Islamic purity.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • j

      Oppressing women does not equal culture. Sorry.

      That's like a slave owner saying "respect my culture and my right to own and oppress these people".

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

      Dear Ali, how many women get stoned for "cheating" again? We have every reason to believe she will be killed if she returns. Mind you, there's so many Muslims in Europe now, she'll probably be killed regardless.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
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