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. No biggie

    Okay, just went for a look. She's not showing schnit. They're freaking out over... well, nothing really. Kudos to her, though, for having the ov's to do this despite that it's made her a pariah in her own backwards pucked up little country.

    January 21, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. yikes

    Regardless of what culture she's from, it's incredibly sad that women have to pose nude to get attention in the entertainment industry.

    January 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • ralph

      Why? Beautiful people are beautiful. She'll have these pictures for the rest of her life, and they're beautiful pictures.

      January 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. clnee55

    The Iranian supreme council is currently in session to discuss if members of the council should receive month playybbooy for free

    January 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Linda Morris

    That Iranian diva can do whatever she wants. I commend her for being so brave.
    This is the 90's folks, were entering a new age. In the galaxy of Zorkonn,
    Queen Arma was just re-elected a second term, and ALSO elected for a first time as
    Highest Administrator, not just in Zorkonn, but also in E.P.N.I.E. People that's our universe.
    Things are gonna get ugly. Keep your heads up, work in unity and pray that E.P.N.I.E. drops her as
    Highest Admin. This is not good people, not good at all.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Electroguy

    You see one, you've seen em both...

    January 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. evensteven

    Who can resist the beauty of a woman's breasts?

    January 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rob

    Who is he that judges others

    January 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Denise

    Seriously now, those geniuses who, according to Proust, never did but one and the same work, passing their explosive "contraband" between the lines of their writings, are being shamefully discarded from literary programs in schools of the Western worlds. More than ever they are needed and should be required reading.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mikrik13

    Bless her heart. Or can't the Moslem world do that.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DanW

    I read the headline and wondered "Where did she carry the matches?"

    January 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |

      I'd rather look at a starfish than an naked Iranian. I still throw up when someone says Borat.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. citizenmn

    If she goes back to Iran, the Islamic regime will bury her up to her neck and stone her to death. This is an approved punishment in Islam, a barbaric religion.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • physnchips

      Don't be foolish. Christianity has the same stuff in the Old Testament. Religions aren't inherently evil, it's the perpetrators of evil acts in religions' name that are evil.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |

      No one goes back to Iran, unless the have family that can't get out.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian P

      She's here illegally then. Deport her and we'll catch the twitter feed. Thanks you modern technology!

      January 21, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      "Christianity has the same stuff in the Old Testament" Hmmmmm, I was unaware of Christians being mentioned in the Old Testament, want to show me where you found that?

      January 21, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • michaelwg

      you guys have enjoyed your slavery, child crusades, inquisitions, and current racist/bigoted policies though.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jack

    It's a shame, that women of the world are following the footsteps of the western woman. Let's see in America, over half of the Women have some nasty STD. I have always liked non-western women for not being western. I hope she doesn't become a role model for the non-western women.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • RS

      Ralph, where in his post did he say anything about he likes non-Western women "because he can dominate them." And you talk about "BS stats"? How about putting words in other people's mouths? Ridiculous. Get out of here.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liahn

      And what about the same number of men who have STDs as well?

      January 21, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      half of western women have nasty STDs? Where do you get your stats?

      January 21, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian P

      American women and American men thank you for not liking them. I hear Iranian women are scandalized, perhaps you might have a chance with them now!

      January 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sonbo

    it would have been ok if she covered her boobies with bombs!! Then the mullahs would have loved her. You know that the dirty, filthy, president of iran, who smells like a billy goat, spends a lot of private time with that photo.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. smdahl

    @citizennm: The only "islamic" nations who practice the brand of justice you mention are the puppet nations of the USA: Saudi Arabia is chief among them (see their infamous Chop Chop Square for example). You are only aware of Iran because it is an "enemy" of the banks. Propaganda is very effective.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Scott

    While I don't mind her pushing back at the oppressive culture in her country, I can't say that this rather adolescent stunt is very profound or meaningful. Yay. You showed your boobs. Real original and revolutiionary. I admire more the peoplewho speak out about injustice and in favor of rationality and tolerance. Still, perhaps she can yet use this attention-getter to do some good.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Well, it certainly struck a nerve, didn't it? Muslim men are forcing women to act and dress a certain way. You see those actions being defended even in these comments. So, actually it isn't Juvenile. It's Juvenile for the men to think banning her from her country and stoning other women for doing similar things is appropriate.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crystal

      I'm agreeing with Joe on this one. What she did may not have been a big deal or stunt to people in the West, it's a big deal to people of the Mid-East. Islam, as the way it has been interpreted and integrated into society, has created a culture that allows its men their male privilege, control, and believed superiority and so that they (the men) have socially learned juvenile behavior. Also we have to remember that she is a PERFORMING ARTIST! This is how they express their disagreement on issues: through expression. If she were part of academia or government she probably would have SPOKEN out instead of ACTED out in uncovering.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
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