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Marjane Satrapi once described Golshifteh Farahani as Elizabeth Taylor at the peak of her career, “but smarter, funnier, more at ease with herself, and a better actor”.

She was, possibly, understating the case.

At six, she kicked off a career in acting with work in the theatre, a love that remains to this day. At 14, apart from convincing her classmates to go on strike against the authorities for failing to get indoor heating, Farahani won her first international award at the Tehran Film Festival, for her performance in The Pear Tree. At 16, she had shaved her head, refused to wear a scarf and was riding a bicycle around Tehran. She put it best, perhaps, in a recent interview where she said “there’s an expression in Persian, ‘to play with the lion’s tale’. I wasn’t what Iranian society wanted me to be – a good girl. I played with the lion’s tail.”

Now, at 30, the spirit of rebellion is at once more strong, yet also nuanced: Farahani is one of the finest actresses Iran has produced – she has starred in over 25 films, essaying the kind of angular characters that make the orthodoxy squirm. Before her appearance in the Hollywood film Body of Lies, Farahani had played a pregnant woman gassed during the Iran-Iraq war in M for Mother, a wife dealing with her drug-addict husband in Santoori and a motorcycle stunt rider in Setareh.

Her looks – fragile, sensuous, dreamy – bely the nerves of steel she has displayed through the years. Following her increasing popularity, and a decision to appear in certain sensual photo-shoots and short films bare breasted, Farahani was threatened with dire consequences and exiled from Iran. She currently lives in Paris, where her craft and voice are only growing stronger. “There are two types of people in exile — those who are victims and end up committing suicide in the Seine and those who become warriors, who use all their sadness to build an engine with big wings to fly,” she says, “Exile is my power.”

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