Iranian-born actress Golshifteh Farahani — who returns to the Berlinale this year to serve on the jury headed by Kristen Stewart — found herself in the middle of several controversies when she first visited the festival in 2009 as one of the stars of Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly.
At the time, there was some speculation over whether the film, which followed a group of middle-class Iranians on a vacation to the Caspian Sea, would be banned in Iran. Appearing before the press, Farahani called the speculation “a storm in a teacup,” while director Farhadi blamed the media for stoking the controversy, saying: “I think they really blew things up out of all proportion. I am quite confident the film will not have difficulties in Iran. In fact, it is being shown in Tehran tonight, after the premiere in Berlin.”
Farhadi, who went on to win the festival’s Silver Bear for directing, proved correct, and About Elly ultimately was chosen by Iran as its official submission for best foreign-language film at the 82nd Academy Awards. But Farahani did not fare as well. She also faced criticism from Iranian authorities for her role in Ridley Scott’s 2008 Middle East-set spy thriller Body of Lies, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, in which she appeared without a hijab. It became an open question whether she’d be allowed to return to her homeland. “I don’t have any problems in going back to Iran. I’ve never had such problems. It’s just propaganda,” the actress, then 25, insisted.
But that was not the case, and Farahani — who went on to star in such films as Jim Jarmusch’s 2016 Paterson, the 2017 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and 2020’s Extraction — was forced to flee to Paris, which has been her home ever since. “For the first time in my life, I appreciated being a woman,” she told The Guardian in 2012. “Paris is a city that liberates you as a woman from all your sins that you think you are guilty of; it washes away all of that and you are free.”
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