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The Story of Soraya M. Film Review Essay

The film, The Stoning of Soraya M., is based on a best-selling book written by Iranian- French journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, adapted by Cyrus Nowrasteh. The film’s greatest strength besides an outstanding script, was its gifted cast: Shohreh Aghdashloo as Zahra, Mozhan Marno as Soraya Manutchehri, James Caviezel as Freidoune, and other great actors starred in this movie which was filmed in the year 2008 in an Iranian village to show the small village during the Khomeini in 1986. The story revolves around the extremely controversial issue of the highly questionable punishment in Islamic law of death by stoning for adultery that has largely survived through cultural heritage which intrigued me, engrossed me, and forced me to watch this movie. Stranded in a remote Iranian village, Freidoune, a French journalist, is approached by Zahra, a woman who has a harrowing tale to tell about her niece, Soraya, and the bloody circumstances of her death the day before. As the journalist turns on his tape recorder, Zahra takes us back to the beginning of her story which involves Soraya’s husband, the local mullah, and a town all too easily led down a path of deceit, coercion, and hysteria.

The women, stripped of all rights, confronted the overwhelming desires of corrupt men who use and abuse their authority to condemn Soraya, an innocent but inconvenient wife, to an unjust and torturous death. A shocking and true drama, it exposes the dark power of mob rule, uncivil law, and the utter lack of human rights for women. The last and only hope for some measure of justice lies in the hands of the journalist who must escape with the story and his life, so the world will know. The shooting places will really make you feel that the story happened during the late 80s, especially with the help of the film editors. The designs, the costumes, and even the lines said were planned well. As a person who isn’t into acting much, I surely am giving the actors two thumbs up for all their efforts for this movie. For the background music, I wasn’t that notified when the music starts to play since I was caught up with the acting of Aghdashloo and the rest of the actors.

Cyrus Nowrasteh’s film isn’t, of course, perfect. Mistakes or rather imperfections may be seen in this movie. The lighting was a bit off at some times. The camera angles were kind of disappointing. One example is when Zahra was attracting Freidoune’s attention in the cafe. As I was watching the scenes, I wasn’t convinced with the acting of Soraya’s husband though. But overall the aspects of filmmaking ranks at about 7 to 8 in my opinion. Every film, good or bad, solicits and elicits an emotional response from its audience. From excitement to boredom, from laughter to tears and everything else in-between; but not every film is meant to pull on one’s heart strings in a positive way. Sometimes, a cinematic work can yank hard on our conscience and make us question our assumptions about humanity.

I used to think that as a collective, people stand for fairness and justice. As I get in touch with the complexities of the real world, I’m not sure of that anymore. It’s understandable that there are bad guys who do bad things, but how is it that a large majority of people choose to follow their line? What exactly goes on in the minds of people when they are stoning someone to death? Don’t they feel how terribly inhumane it is? Do their brains shutdown neurons responsible for compassion? Or is it that they are completely cruel and incapable of such emotions? It must have something to do with their lifelong conditioning and brainwashing which make them think that she deserved to be punished that way.

We see unruly mobs in some places, burning vehicles, stoning buildings, and thrashing people, occasionally killing too. It seems to me that if these same people were raised in similar conditions, they would gladly stone a helpless woman to death if they were told that it is the right thing to do. The movie obviously did brought up questions to me because it is a very real story that is still happening in some parts of the world where women are not treated equally in their society – it’s a heart breaking truth and must watch for anyone who wants to know more about the un-just Sharia Laws of Islam.


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