Review: The Stoning of Soraya M

The Stoning of Soraya is based on a true story, taken from the bestselling book of the same name by French-Iranian journalist, Freidoune Sahebjam. His retelling of the stoning death of the real Soraya, in a small Iranian village in 1986, highlighted the disturbing practice of stoning for a global readership. Now with the film version, the focus is again being put back on this medieval practice of execution reported to still be happening in remote areas of countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, UAE and Afghanistan as well as Iran. This film illustrates a part of a more common problem, honour killings- in which family members kill a woman who in their eyes has brought dishonour through some form of inappropriate behaviour.

Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh (the screenplay was co-written by Nowrasteh and his wife Bestsy Giffen Nowrasteh), the film begins the day after the stoning with an encounter between Sahebjam (played by an oddly prosthetic-nosed Jim Caviezel, The Passion of the Christ) and Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog), Soraya’s aunt. Zahra is determined to get the truth out of the village about the events leading up to the public execution, a horrendous actthe village all collaborated in. The film then moves back in time to tell the story of Soraya (Mozhan Marnò, Traitor) and the conspiracy orchestrated by her husband, Ali (Navid Negahban, Brothers) and the escalation of the tragic events.

This film is by no means a cinematic masterpiece, but Aghdashloo’s strong performance holds the film together. Marnò is also very good, in what must have been a horrific role to play. This is an issue film, and therefore the rules about good cinematography and scripting are slightly more flimsy. There is a message to get across and that comes in loud and clear due to one extended scene.

A stoning in its entirety has never been shown in a film before, and the result is drastic. The filmmakers’ decided to film without holding back and with no breaks in the scene’s intensity, with much on the scene solely focused on the increasingly battered body of Soraya. This will perhaps be the most unpleasant thing you will ever sit through in a film. It is brutal, unyielding and almost unwatchable, and quite rightly so given the content of the film. The filmmakers really do go too far with the scene, but it has its desired result, because it is impossible to leave the cinema and not be repulsed, angered and also devastated that an act of cruelty such as this still occurs around the world and the majority of victims are women and girls.

The Stoning of Soraya M. opens with a limited release in Australia on 27th May

Director: Cyrus Nowrasteh

Cast: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Mozhan Marnò, Navid Negahban, Jim Caviezel, David Diaan, Ali Pourtash, Parviz Sayyad

For more information about stonings and violence against women you can visit these sites;

http://www.stop-stoning.org/

http://www.meydaan.com/english/default.aspx

http://www.minheder.nu/

http://www.awid.org/

Images 1, 2, 3

About Beth Wilson

A Brit based in Sydney, Beth is constantly fighting for an organised queuing system and the right to call chips, crisps. She can often be found working at film festivals around NSW, and has become accustomed to surviving on very little sleep. You can follow her on twitter at @bflwilson