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. cpc65

    Everyone criticizing her probably took a good long gander then said what their government wanted them to say.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Banjo muslims are crying everywhere.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chris

    Good for her.

    Iranian culture is ass-backwards, morally bankrupt, and violently ignorant. As a people, I find them reprehensible and lacking in any redeeming qualities.

    Maybe if more of them were like her, they'd change my mind and the apathy about whether the American and Israeli militaries light them up.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ArchieDeBunker

    Women are the greatest hope for the downfall of tyranical muslim governments like the one in Iran (and the soon-to-be ones in Egypt, Libia, Tunisa, Iraq and Afghanistan). Because these governments treat women as decidedly second-class human beings, and because this can no longer be hidden in a world with the internet and social media, women will work as a silent force to undermine everything these governments are trying to do. This is the only hopeful factor in what otherwise appears to be the dismal future for the millions of people in the Arab countrys. The rulers of Islam are horribly out of touch with the real world and are trying to move society back toward the middle ages. I hope the U. S. and every other modern country will support these oppressed women fully until they are given equal status with men in all walks of life.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shaun

    Maybe she was hot! Iranians wear enough sheets. It's hot as hell over their holding all that FUNK under those garments!! I'm glad she let her skin breathe!!!! We were born naked ANYWAY!!! That damn country AND it's citizens need to lighten up....REALLY????? WHO REALLY GIVES A SHYT!!!????? We come into this world alone...we will die alone. Iranians HELP their people die>>>>WEIRD!!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Noreaster

    For those of you who think there are more important things to discuss in the news I submit this for consideration.
    I look at this young womans actions somewhat similar to Rosa Parks refusal to sit at the back of the bus. Sometimes social and religous changes come in small actions. Besides, let's remember the entire world is not as free as the US of A and change is still needed.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidFox

      It's true. The world needs more po rn. You go girl.

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

      She ain't all that , I bet she thought she would get men to go crazy , I like curves on a woman , she s not my type , plus she s Iranian , yukkk

      January 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reagan Blows Liberals in the Alley

      @DavidFox po rn. Typical American trailer trash comment.

      This, in Iran, is comparable to Rosa Parks. Except in America, in the 60's, it was the trailer trash like you that forced Rosa to the back of the bus. In Iran, it is the religion and government that forces women to the back, Golshiftah is standing up for women. Absolutely, you go girl.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dirk

    I'm all for freedom of expression especially when it is a naked woman. I don't care whether the nationality is Iranian or American or Muslin or Christian. For anyone to do this takes courage especially from a backward and repressed culture like Iran. You will note that for all the hyperbole coming out of Iran over this they are looking at the photos just as much as everyone else which makes them hypocrits over this particular issue as well.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. getout

    id love to suck on those , terrorist or not

    January 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • backy dicu nguyen

      I am a sinner. I love to live in sins – the more sins, the more human is the society. Thus, it is safer to live in a sinful world than living in God-fearing country such as Iran... It is better in sin than in Shiite.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ingenious Mr Toad

    Well, it's just a matter of time before the authorities find her with her head cut off...

    January 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BRBSanDiego

    The world will be a better place when radical religions are distant history. Iran and its satellites are the worst of the bunch. I have no respect for most middle east men; they stand and smile at you while stabbing you in the back – great culture of the bronze age.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jojo

    I've not seen this ladies pictures but she sure is a beauty.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. flyerdon

    I know if she goes back to Iran she will be killed...sad, but that is theirculture and I don't agree with it. It is her body to do with as she sees fit..............

    January 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Show me your boobs!

    Seems like she is being attack by the american christian republican right wing!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Panties

    That young lady is Very Nice. Gawd, I love it.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nazxul

    Seems she is being attacked by the evangelical christian american right wing republicans! leave women alone you zealots!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
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