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. KYBlueskyFL

    Only perverts find "shame" in the natural human body. And it's especially hypocritical for anyone of any faith to express a belief in a God as the creator of man, yet then assume he made us any other way than the way he intended us. If he'd wanted us covered, he would/could have made us covered.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Even as an atheist I can appreciate this statement, well said

      January 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Puckles

      ACtually, he did cover man and woman with animal skins. YOU are the perve.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • clearfog

      God covered man with animal skins? ROFL

      January 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Panties

    I am impressed with her tiny teats. They are so Nice.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      I am more impressed by her courage. Her "teats", as you call them, are nothing more than glands that produce nourishment for her offspring. You are a very shallow human being if you can't see that.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • ddblah

      wildone: every human body is a piece of art, a lot more than a bag of meat for the purpose of making and nourishing offsprings.

      If you can't see this, you are really a shallow animal.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      Art is in the eye of the beholder, ddblah. Functionality is the reason why the species has survived. Not because you and other "artists" think women's breasts are "works of art."

      January 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • ha

      If breasts were only for nourishing young, they would only be swollen while nursing. As it is, clearly they are indeed intended to both nourishing babies and attract mates.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. wildone

    We are all born naked to God and the world. We are all God's creation and should be unashamed of the bodies that God gave us. When confronted with the truth of this we should feel wonder at God's creation of man and woman and not hide our bodies from His sight.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Puckles

      Actually, we should be modest so perves like you do not stare.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      Maybe you would prefer that she wear a burlap sack to hide the fact of her femininity. You are the one who is perverted if you think that the human body (that God created) is something to hide.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mimi

    Oh!!! She is in trouble! For an Iranian woman ... I salute her

    January 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jt_flyer

    Persian women are some of the most beautiful on earth. Let's hope more continue the trend.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cris

    way to go CNN-give the age, first name, and city of her supporters in Iran... as if the authorities would be able to find them..... I don't think this is the wisest journalism ever published.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • cris

      *would not*

      January 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. irma

    I guess...Of all things to stand up for....nudity is her first pick? Seems more like free press exposure to me, than standing up for something.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. stevenstreets

    Lets make war and liberate beautiful Persian women.
    It's been too long since we fought a war worth winning in a country with beautiful woman.
    They got nothing else of redeeming value in that country.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • vikinglander

      Unless it's the oil the US covets enough to wage endless illegal wars against varying countries. I suggest you attempt reading US and global history at some point, get your misguided and uneducated "perfect" American head out of your ass and have some empathy for citizens of the world and stop thinking your country is the greatest on earth. The US led Iraq embargo of 20-odd years ago killed nearly a million Iraqi citizens alone. Amazon is a good place to start....

      January 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. collins61

    They are wonderful, hard working and family oriented. Google what Persia did for the world. Don't blame the people for their gov't.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ddblah

    Is she going to be stoned in Iran??

    January 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • dreamer96

      Well she could have gotten stoned in California if she was there...or Amsterdam.....

      January 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dreamer96

    Those ancient Greeks, and Romans, so awful putting nude statues up in the middle of their cities...geee..

    January 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Unfortunately

    Unfortunately, she will be a target. She will never be able to return to Iran without fear of persecution or death. I applaud her for her boldness and continuing career in acting. Who knew that bearing your breast could potentially cost you your life?

    January 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. clearfog

    Sure looks human to me.

    January 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bob

    Maybe if the Iranians got laid more often they would be such uptight a$$h0les.

    January 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      That is true for every fundamentalist, and for every person in a fundamentalist controlled society.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • mcp123

      "That is true for every fundamentalist, and for every person in a fundamentalist controlled society."

      Like the southeastern U.S.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. david

    Its called FREEDOM FOR ALL! something Iran has no clue of what that is. Women have no rights in Iran, none at all!

    January 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Revolution 2012

      January 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
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