Shohreh Aghdashloo in The Stoning of Soraya M.
(Image courtesy of MPower Pictures)
Iran is all over the news these days with its nuclear ambitions and sham elections, but there’s another little matter that’s been going on in Iran a lot longer: the stoning to death of people, usually women, for moral offenses. In these cases, the victim is buried up to his or her waist and rocks are chosen so they’ll hurt, but not kill instantly. As an added touch of brutality, children of the victim are frequently forced to watch.
Last September when Toronto bestowed the Cadillac People’s Choice Award on a little feel-good slice of poverty tourism known as Slumdog Millionaire, another film called The Stoning of Soraya M. was chosen as the second runner-up. Set a few countries away from Slumdog, Soraya doesn’t have an upbeat Bollywood ending. Instead it ends with rocks and blood and death. It’s the true story of a young Iranian wife wrongfully accused by her husband of adultery and subsequently stoned to death.
Told in flashback, the film stars Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (The House of Sand and Fog) as Soraya’s aunt and Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, The Passion of the Christ) as Freidoune Sahebjam, a passing Western journalist to whom she tells the story in the hope he will tell the rest of the world.
Though it’s not a perfect film – it borders uncomfortably on melodrama at times and the tyrannical husband character is lacking only a handlebar mustache he can twirl malevolently – The Stoning of Soraya M. nevertheless has some great performances and an undeniably powerful subject matter that builds to a moving and excruciating climax. Aghdashloo turns in a terrific performance as a woman who has seen enough, but who has no one to turn to for help and Mozhan Marnò is deeply sympathetic as Soraya.
Here’s a recent interview Shohreh Aghdashloo did with the Today show’s Ann Curry. The latter half is about the recent Iranian elections, but the first bit is about the film.
The Stoning of Soraya M. will be presented on Saturday, June 20 at the Los Angeles Film Festival by guest artist Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. Director Cyrus Nowrasteh and Shohreh Aghdashloo will participate in a discussion following the film which opens in limited release on June 26.