Shohreh Aghdashloo in The Stoning of Soraya M.
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.

6 Responses to “In the Pipeline: The Stoning of Soraya M.”

  1. I’ve been looking forward to this one but I know it will be really hard to watch. Somebody told me the stoning scene is like 15 minutes long.

  2. Indeed, this is extremely disturbing, especially with the unconscionable aspects of the torture and having children watch. Brutality that has no equal.

    Ms. Aghdashloo is one superb actress though.

  3. Thank you both for not stoning me for unnecessarily headbutting Slumdog :) I know you’re both fans, and frankly I liked it too, I just couldn’t resist a teeny bit more post-Oscar backlash.

    I had a few issues with the film I elaborated above, but it’s still solid and sometimes subject trumps filmmaking.

    The stoning is indeed long and pretty brutal. It’s not as graphic as a typical slasher film, but sometimes not seeing is worse than having it shoved in your face.

  4. It is important for people to know what continues to happen in many different cultures around the world. I saw the movie and can attest that i was crying, but i was crying because it is long overdue not telling the truth and getting support from world leaders. The stoning sequence is difficult only because you identify with the character; Mozan did an excellent job with the character and the director makes everyone remember that something can be done to stop this and improve women’s rights. Thank you Shohreh and the rest of the cast for stepping up!

  5. Thanks for stopping by Roya. The thing that got to me about the stoning was how enthusiastically friends and neighbors of Soraya joined in. Horrifying.

  6. Abuse of power, Betrayal, Manipulation, and Injustice, the good old boys club especially when you through the gender discrimination in themix!
    A gruesome story is being delivered through a great
    cinematography, amazing cast of talent, and, an in-your-face style.

    June 20th 2009, LA Film Festival, the opening night for the movie unintentionally co-insides with the unrest and turmoil that has started in Iran. The movie is seeking to deliver a scream about a gruesome
    injustice from a remote village in Iran, which undeniably can be related to what is going on in the whole country right now.

    The combination of old veteran and new generation Iranian actors, the list of talent in this movie is amazing and perhaps challenging for the
    director Cyrus Nowrasteh at times! From Vida Ghahremani, a seventy years veteran actress, pioneer, and Icon in Iran’s history of cinema
    to, Parviz Sayyad, Ali Pourtash, Navid Negahban, David Diaan, the stunning duet of Mojhan Marno, and Shohre Aghdashloo, and the list goes on.
    However, at the end, director/writer Cyrus Nowrasteh accomplishes delivery of his vision by masterfully utilizing this amazing pool of talented cast and crew.
    Great film making; brave awareness delivery; I’ll say, it is a must see.

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