The Stoning Of Soraya M.


Directed by: Cyrus Nowrasteh
Written by:Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh, Cyrus Nowrasteh
Starring: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Mozhan Marno, James Caviezel, Navid Negahban, Ali Pourtash, David Diaan
Released: May 27, 2010
Grade: A

Freidoune Sahebjam was a French-born journalist who wrote numerous stories on the human rights atrocities that occurred in Iran in the 1970s.  He was kidnapped near his home in 1979 by a group of men loyal to the Iranian government.  Sahebjam was badly beaten and told that he would be killed if he ever returned to Iran.

This didn’t stop Sahebjam.  In 1984, he again visited Iran using a false identity.  It was on this trip that he befriended a middle aged woman Zahra.  She confided in him about an atrocity which had recently occurred in the village.  Sahebjam knew this was a story that that must be told.  It was published as a novel in the mid 1990s and has been read by many people across the globe.

In 2008, American director Cyrus Nowrasteh brought the story to the screen.  I’m glad he did because it’s sure opened my eyes.  Others have felt the same way.  At the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, The Stoning Of Soraya M. finished third in the audience vote (behind Slumdog Millionaire).  Given that honour, I’m surprised the film has taken so long to receive a cinematic release in Australia.

The title speaks for itself.  Soraya was a married woman who was stoned to death by the men in her village.  She had been found guilty of adultery.  The allegations were baseless however.  Soraya’s husband had made up the story so that he could marry another woman.  The trial and execution all took place on the same day.  Soraya wasn’t even allowed to speak.

This is a tough film to watch for obvious reasons.  It certainly left an impact on me.  Shohreh Aghdashloo (House Of Sand And Fog) delivers and incredible performance as Zahra.  This is a very personal film for Aghdashloo given she’s an Iranian actress living in exile in the United States.  She wanted to highlight the oppression of women not just in Iran but in similar countries run by Islamic extremists.

Filmed in Jordan, The Stoning Of Soraya M. is a powerful film that will stick with you long after you’ve left the cinema.