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. Nazir

    women should keep their faces covered, stay in the home, and treat their husbands the way a husband should be treated... this blasphemous woman needs to be taught a lesson

    January 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • fin ruiz

      you are disgusting. please stay in the middle east. women are beautiful and more that property. I am sorry that you will never know that.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Louis

      So, Nazir, what's your husband's name???

      January 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aftab

      I believe you people were missing his sarcasm.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Lyons

      I agree they need to take a gun to their oppressive husbands.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      So do you Nazir – looks like she sure taught YOU – you COWARD!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nazir

      ****Aftab**** You win the prize. Enjoy your weekend anyway you want. Even naked if you so desire.

      January 21, 2012 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. davood

    the name you choose for yourself shows what you lack in your life: being nice
    the name you use for others is what you are: stupid
    go figure... if its too deep for you then i suggest you start browsing Yahoo not CNN.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Allen

    Time for another honor killing.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Lyons

      This is why Iranian Women need to be armed so they can execute their attackers.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CosmicC

    While many in the US throw stones at Iran, there are plenty here who think a woman nursing a baby in public is obscene and there are police departments that would treat them as criminals.
    Let's clean our own house first.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mr. Magoooooooooo


    January 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      Grow up, slob.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Eric

    How bout everyone mind's their own business!?!? Including the super cult, a.k.a. The freakish Iranian Regime! What Golshifteh chooses to do with her own body, is absolutely, completely up to her. You pompous ultra religious freaks do not OWN her individuality, body, mind, or her soul! The day will come when the Iranian people become absolutely exhausted with your vile attempts of human slavery!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      The sooner the better – they are cowardly – they can't take a women who stands up to them – COWARDS!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. The current Islamic year...

    is 1432.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. USMC79

    She had this planned from the start...she goes nude to make some money, the pictures go viral and the Iranians find out about it and call for her execution. Now she can seek asylum abroad either in Europe or the U.S. claiming that she can't go back to Iran for fear of being tortured and executed. She'll be granted asylum and live happily ever after.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • mr. Magoooooooooo


      January 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mr. Magoooooooooo

    All the outrage about a woman's... boobs?? WOW!!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ajs

    So she is proud that she stood nude infront of a camera. S**t!!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Levi

    yeah until we see your girlfriends hairy nips

    January 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Not so fast.

    According to president Ahmadinejad, NO Iranians are gay.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRBSanDiego

      Biggest butt bandits in the middle east when no camels are available. They do love their little boys under the table.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Lyons

      None that are left alive that is.....

      January 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • DUH

      That is because they kill you when they find out you are gay.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Is It Because

      Is that because some of the "machos" there are still in denial and in the closet and wish they could get a little but are afraid of being found out?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • What A Joke

      And if they truly believe that then Satan also goes to Sunday school!

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

    Yeah, its so brave to get naked for the frenchies, real brave

    January 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Maire

    Women who do that should be ashamed no matter where they come from. Like the rest of us, it seems many Iranians have become brainwashed into thinking that they need to be "cool" in the eyes of the West. I agree also with Apick, this is only going to make things worse for the women inside Iran. (remember those other 30 million women, Golshifteh? The ones who can't take their clothes off in Paris??)

    The Iranian state is like an overbearing father figure. And she's the rebellious teenager. Simple as that.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Why?

      Why? Are too uptight? There is nothing wrong with female body...

      January 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nofakingway

      Gee, a little bitter aren't we? Or are you just too old to understand?

      January 20, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Derek is Stpd

    Dumb $#$#

    January 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39