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. blaze562

    That's it, no more trips to Iran for her..

    January 21, 2012 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. omegarising

    CNN FOR RON PAUL 2012!!

    January 21, 2012 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. Guide

    Every soul will taste death and will reurn to your Creator one day then you will be accounted for your all actions.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      I assume you have evidence of this? I also assume you believe in an egotistical vengeful God?

      January 21, 2012 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • clinky

      Guide, I wouldn't mind being re-urned too much but I'd really prefer that my descendants spring for a new urn to hold my ashes.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Cat MacLeod

      The god of my ancestor's Odin thinks hot powerful women are to be admired, sought after and defended. Why do these other religions want to control people through guilt and fear of their bodies and natural desires. It's almost as though these religions want to controls peoples thoughts and actions for their own profit but that can't be right because.....oh I see.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. ethyl

    This woman is posing as an actress and not as a muslim. Those that " disliked" this photo, can you tell the difference? If you can't, I'm so sorry for you.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. Harry

    She is pretty hot IMHO. I would totally do her. Though the bush needs to go. Hedge trimmers STAT!

    January 21, 2012 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. john

    They did her a favour telling her not to come home, nobody in their right mind would go back there anyway.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Leather

    I'd definitely hit that.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. PDXguy

    She lives in France and they still blame it on the US......sad.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. Me

    Iran needs to wake up. The year is 2012, not 1012.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      They were more advanced in 1012 – that's before Al-Ghazali showed up.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. PDXguy

    I met an incredible looking Iranian woman once, way out of my league, I admit it, but I'm also sitting here on a Friday night commenting on CNN so it's no wonder.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      Lol love it!

      January 21, 2012 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
    • oyiboforumdude

      And why are you not in the forum? Lol

      January 21, 2012 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. Iran: the land where breasts cause earthquakes

    ...where mammary-glands are morality-guides, where hand-in-backcheek are just good citizenship!

    January 21, 2012 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. SkullTower

    She is lucky. She was just a stone's throw away from getting into serious trouble.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Siisi

    Going to the hollywood and first act is getting naked...remarkable!

    January 21, 2012 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Please tell me where, in the article, it mentioned her getting naked in Hollywood. And her "first act" in hollywood was "not being naked" as a Nurse. Ignorance won't treat you well in life, unless you're a politician or Muslim.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dr.Jabir.P.K

    This is just western culture... uncultured...we(eastners) Indians doesnt like this.This is not dharma. ie to show your private parts in public. ok . any of you like your mother or sister doing this. I read many admire her.would they do so. any way me, my relatives and mothers wont.we came to establish dharma and to destroy adharma.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Danielle

      Nor is she your daughter, mother, etc so why are YOU judging her? You are a hypocrite!

      January 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wasso

    Well, she has company now with that Paki actress Vena Malak !

    January 21, 2012 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
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