DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
STONING OF SORAYA M, THE (director/writer: Cyrus Nowrasteh; screenwriters: Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh/book by Freidoune Sahebjam; cinematographer: Joel Ransom; editors: David Handman/Geoffrey Rowland; music: John Debney; cast: Shohreh Aghdashloo (Zahra), Mozhan Marnò (Soraya), Navid Negahban (Ali), David Diaan (Ebrahim), Parviz Sayyad (Hashem), Jim Caviezel (Freidoune Sahebjam); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producers: John Shepherd/Stephen McEveety; Roadside Attractions/MPower Pictures; 2008-in Farsi /English with English subtitles)

 
"Does not make for good drama or entertainment, but it eerily elicits a strange power that says a lot about human rights violations throughout the world."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An Iranian housewife named Soraya (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is falsely accused of adultery with a recently widowed mechanic named Hashem (Parviz Sayyad), someone her dishonorable, divorce-seeking husband Ali (Mozhan Marnò) made her work for. Soraya was stoned to death in her rural village in 1986. French-Iranian writer Freidoune Sahebjam (James Caviezel) learned of the story and turned it into a best-selling exposé in 1994. This intense film adaptation, though too simplistic and corny at times in its declarations of good and evil, is well-made and benefits from the intense performances of Shohreh Aghdashloo as Soraya’s aunt Zahra, who tells this horror story in flashback, and Marnò, who lends her character a sympathetic dignity. 

Iranian American Cyrus Nowrasteh ("The Island") directs and cowrites (with Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh) this simplistic ugly religious tale of moral outrage, that wallows in its ugliness without saying anything further that adds to our understanding of such horrific treatment of women, as it relates how fundamentalist Muslims when in power in Iran inflict in a tiny remote backwards mountainous village their cruel punishment on a helpless woman trapped in a patriarchal society. It was shot in an unnamed Mideast location, outside of Iran.

When Soraya and Zahra fail to prove Soraya's innocence in a rigged religious legal system, Zahra will risk her life to tell the horror story of what happened to her niece to the Paris-dwelling French-Iranian journalist who accidentally arrives in the village when his car broke down. 

The ham-fisted unpleasant story does not make for good drama or entertainment, but it nevertheless eerily elicits a strange power that says a lot about human rights violations throughout the world and for that alone deserves some props. It ends in a brutal scene that is more upsetting than moving, and one that comes close to exploitation.

REVIEWED ON 12/16/2009       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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