Review of "The Stoning of Soraya M"

The tragic true story of a young Iranian woman's execution at the hands of her husband and father.
by Leticia Velasquez | Source: Catholic.net


"At its heart, this movie is a human drama filled with tension, peril and hope - but it is also a true story that I felt strongly had to be told, a story the whole world needs to know." -- Director, Cyrus Nowrasteh

This is the theme of the- story revealed by an Iranian-French journalist Freidoune Sahebjam (Jim Caviezel) whose car left him stranded in a remote Iranian hamlet burdened with a terrible secret.  In under the Ayatollah Khomeini, where fundamentalist selfish men to suppress women, and even use Islam dispose of them when they thwart their desires.  Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo) exerts great persuasive power to interest Sahebjam in hearing the story, risking repercussions from the village mullah (Ali Pourtash) and mayor, who try to pass her off as insane.  Finally, she convinces the journalist to come to her home, and record on his tape recorder the horrendous story of the stoning of her niece Soraya (Mozhan Marno) the day before. 

That is how the novel “The Stoning of Soraya M” on which the film is based, came to be.

Soraya is a lovely young mother of four with an abusive adulterous husband Ali (Navid Negahbam) who has his eye on second wife he can’t afford, so he asks Soraya for a divorce. In this poor village, such an arrangement would mean certain starvation, so Soraya refuses. A neighbor woman dies leaving her husband with no one to care for their retarded son while working, so the Mullah suggests that Soraya work for him as a housekeeper. Soraya is glad for the money;  it will buy her freedom from her abusive husband. She saves every penny and grows to care for the sweet teenage boy Hashem (Parviz Sayyad) and the lonely widower.  It is in her kindness that Ali spies an opportunity, and soon he is convincing the Mullah to falsely accuse Soraya of adultery.  With devastating ease, the men in the story become complicit in murder; each of them has a shameful personal reason to brutalize the innocently beautiful Soraya.

Soraya’s seraphic smile and her tender compassion combined with her aunt’s fierce loyalty are the saving graces of a vicious plot strung taught with anticipation of the impending tragedy.  No spoilers here; the title of the film gives away the ending, yet the film, like “The Passion of the Christ” also produced by Steve McVeety, is worth watching for the dignity of screenwriters  Cyrus and Betsy Geffen Mowrasteh’s direction, and the commanding performances by mostly unknown actors. Actress Shoreh Aghdashloo, better know to American audiences as the charming Elizabeth from “The Nativity Story”, is Zahra, the pivotal figure of the film who boldly clashes with the somewhat reasonable mayor Ibrahim as he is swept into the insane current of mob violence.


Soaring cinematography, gripping performances,  and the distinctive Middle Eastern style musical score of John Debney (composer for the Passion of the Christ) redeem a shameful story of deception and murder,  elevating it to soul-searing enlightenment. Your heart will be rent but not destroyed by Soryaya M. The screening audience the theatre charged with renewed determination to fight such abuse of women. Soraya’s tragic story will continue to be repeated until more members of the international community rise up and take decisive action to liberate women from sexual slavery, starvation, and abuse. 



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