By Kushal Sakunia
Based on an incredible true story of horrific injustice, The Stoning of Soraya M. is the powerful tale of an entire village’s persecution of an innocent woman. Originally described in 1990 in a book by a French-Iranian journalist named Freidoune Sahejam, the film tells the story of Soraya Manutchehri, a 35-year-old woman, who was stoned to death in rural Iran in 1986.
James Caviezel plays Freidoune, an Iranian expatriate visiting Iran on assignment when he meets Soraya’s aunt, Zahra (played with strong intensity by famous Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo), who convinces him to visit her to listen to her story.
Soraya (Shohreh Aghdashloo) has two boys and two younger girls and is financially trapped in a marriage to her prison guard husband Ali (Navid Negahban). Ali wants a divorce so he can marry a 14 tempting pre-teen girl, but does not want to commit to the financial support of Soraya and their daughters.
Fearing disgrace and unable to support her daughters, Soraya refuses to divorce Ali. So he devises an alternate plan: accuse Soraya of adultery. He blackmails the local Ayatollah (a former hatchet-man for the Shah) into helping him. Soraya’s uneducated employer Hashem is easily threatened into testifying that she had “slept in his bed,” and the fair but weak mayor of the village goes along with the accusations and convicts Soraya of adultery. Given the title of the film, we all know exactly what is going to happen and my heart was in my throat anticipating that ending. The film’s strategy is to slowly draw out the horrifying details: the gathering of the stones; her burial standing and of course the chilling bloodlust of the mob.
As a condemnation of violence against women, The Stoning of Soraya M. is quite effective. The message of the film is extremely clear throughout: that abuse of any kind should not be tolerated, and that even the most kindly disposed person can be swayed by mob mentality. The film will certainly bring tears especially when you see the terror of stoning in Soraya’s eyes and the scene where Ali forces Soraya’s two sons to abjure her and throw stones.
Stoning is a terrible, unjust practice, and it is often used against women even when the women in question have done nothing deserving of punishment. The film is definitely not an easy to watch with its uncomfortable scenes of stoning, but it tells a story that needs to be told, and tells it well.
- A movie that will make you think: The Stoning of Soraya M. (dare2beher.wordpress.com)
- ‘Stoning of Soraya’ review on “iran times intl” – Free Online Library (voiceofnoli.wordpress.com)