Review: The Stoning Of Soraya M.

Review: The Stoning Of Soraya M.

Most people have heard of the hardships, discrimination and violence Muslim women continue to face but nothing has ever driven the point home like The Stoning of Soraya M – of course, one of the primary motives appears to have been to evoke an angry reaction from viewers. In 1986, an Iranian-French journalist’s (Jim Caviezel) […]

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Most people have heard of the hardships, discrimination and violence Muslim women continue to face but nothing has ever driven the point home like The Stoning of Soraya M – of course, one of the primary motives appears to have been to evoke an angry reaction from viewers.

In 1986, an Iranian-French journalist’s (Jim Caviezel) car breaks down near a small Iranian village and a woman (Shohreh Aghdashloo) secretly asks him to listen to the tale of her niece, which she hopes he will share with the world. The story is that of Soraya M. (Mozhan Marnò). Soraya was married with two sons, but the boys favoured their father (Navid Negahban) and he openly spoke ill of her because he did not love her. He wanted to remarry but circumstances prevented him from getting a divorce. Soraya eventually began to help a man with a son whose wife recently died. He pays her a little and she gets the satisfaction of working and feeling needed. Her husband, on the other hand, sees it as an opportunity to get his divorce – he accuses her of adultery. But Soraya refuses to surrender so her husband conspires with other men in the village to have her publicly stoned.

This tale of male-domination and injustice is horrific and heart-wrenching. As Soraya accepts her fate and takes her place to be buried to prevent her from defending herself, the level of disgust you feel as an audience member is nearly unbearable. But that feeling is exactly the one director Cyrus Nowrasteh is trying to summon. Nonetheless, this is a story that should be seen and heard by everyone because it is true and it is wrong. On the other hand, the men in the film are made complete villains and have no redeeming qualities. Rather than explore the issues, the film sets out to infuriate audiences against a people and religion that are already largely demonized. The 20-minute stoning scene is exceptionally shocking and a poorly used tool to the director’s end.

Marnò gives an exceptional performance. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been to play out some of the appalling things Soraya endured. The experience must have been equally painful for the men, having to pretend to be these ghastly human beings. Nonetheless, it is the realism of the performances that make the film striking and create a lasting impact.

The film was a runner-up for the audience’s choice award at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and will now receive a limited theatrical release internationally, including Toronto. The performances, if not the film style, deserve recognition, which will also provide the issue the spotlight it deserves.


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  • Having seen the film myself, I agree with much of what you’ve written. However, I think I’d give it a 4.5 myself. It’s a very, very strong film that, to the average viewer, inexplicably invokes great emotion. I left the theater changed, and desiring change in a backwards country. The very idea that people have to live in fear, let alone be subjected to this form of capital punishment is unbelievable by any civil standard. I highly recommend this film as only a handful are made about such important issues.

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