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Movie with a message

"Movie with a message" Continued...

Issue: "2009 Books Issue," July 4, 2009

McEveety believes that while it's easy for Westerners to think that corruption and mob rule only happen in foreign countries, we are all subject to the same weaknesses. "I hope people are outraged [when they see the movie] and that stoning will be banned internationally," he said. "I hope it sparks a discussion about honor killings, which are far more prevalent and happening all over the world. But I especially hope that every individual that sees it looks at their own lives and recognizes their own experience committing violence or witnessing violence and doing nothing. We're all guilty of sin yet we think of ourselves as good people. And probably most of the people in that village thought of themselves as good people."

Stone throwers

Soraya M. shows the brutality women can face under Iran's Islamic rule

By Rebecca Kelley

Traveling through rural post-revolutionary Iran, Freidoune Sahebjam, a French journalist of Iranian descent, met a woman who told him the brutal story of the death of her niece, Soraya. Sahebjam published a book on the story in 1994; on June 26, his true story will be released as a film, The Stoning of Soraya M.

The film version of Soraya (Mozhan Marno) is based on the real-life woman, a mother to two sons and two daughters and wife to Ali (Navid Negahban). Although she is only in her mid-30s, Ali has tired of her. He wants to marry a 14-year-old. His offer of divorce would force her and her daughters into desperate poverty, perhaps even prostitution. She rejects it. Ali would take the boys, but cares nothing for his daughters. He cooks a plot to have Soraya stoned. Coercing others to go along through blackmail or intimidation, he and a corrupt mullah put together a sham trial, accusing Soraya of adultery.

The film (rated R for a disturbing sequence of cruel and brutal violence, and brief strong language) marches to its inevitable conclusion and Soraya is stoned by the community she's known all her life. The mob mentality engulfs former friends, her father, and even her young sons. Her aunt, the educated Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo), is the only one courageous enough to stand against the mob, but her cries are not enough to stop the brutality.

Brutality is the key word in this film. The stoning sequence is long, explicit, and hard to watch, even-stomach turning. "It was important to me to tell the truth," said director Cyrus Nowrasteh, and surely only a true stoning could be more disturbing than his film version.

As a work of art, this movie has shortcomings. The characters are one-dimensional and do not grow or change. The outcome is known from the beginning, so there is no suspense. But that's not really the point. As a documentation of an outrage, designed to horrify the world and make it pay attention, it works very well.

Megan Basham
Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Charlotte, N.C. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.


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