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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 7.69%
Just Average: 30.77%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 26.92%

2 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Stoning of Soraya M., The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Imagine What Would Have Happened If She Said "Jehovah". . ."
1 stars

Considering the fact that it was produced by many of the same people responsible for the likes of “The Passion of the Christ” and “An American Carol,” one would have to be quite naïve to walk into the new docudrama “The Stoning of Soraya M” with the expectations of seeing a subtle and nuanced depiction of life in contemporary Iran and the horrifying human rights abuses suffered by women in such a repressive and aggressive patriarchal climate. However, this film goes so far beyond the pale in trying to make its point that Iran is a primitive and backwards land filled with savages who must be stopped that it quickly crosses the line from drama into an exploitative propaganda piece that seems to exist for only one queasy reason--to allow Western audiences to witness the sight of a woman being brutally stoned to death in a sequence staged with all the sadistic delectation of a slasher movie.

As the film opens in 1979, just after the overthrow of the Shah, a journalist (Jim Caviezel) is driving through a remote area of Iran when his car breaks down. He gets dropped off in a tiny village and while he waits for his car to be repaired, he is led away by a local woman, Zahara (Shoreh Aghdashloo), who has a horrifying tale to tell him about something that happened there only the day before. It concerns her niece, Soraya (Mozhan Marno), a sweet-natured young woman who has the misfortune to be married to the brutish and hateful Ali (Navid Negahban). After having had four children with her--two boys and two who unfortunately aren’t boys--Ali has grown weary of Soraya and decides that he would rather be married to the 14-year-old daughter of one of the prisoners in the jail where he works. Alas, he cannot afford two wives and Soraya will not grant him a divorce right then on the grounds that she will be unable to provide for herself and her daughters. Although she takes a job as a housekeeper for a recent widower--a gig encouraged upon her by the local elders--Ali, who comes across essentially as the Iranian Drew Petersen, can’t wait and arranges with the corrupt local mullah to accuse her of adultery, a crime punishable by death by stoning. Luckily for Ali, the townspeople are either easily led sheep or too scared to call the very shaky case against Soraya into question and in what seems like a matter of minutes, she is tried, convicted and brutally executed for a crime that she never even dreamed of committing. (Considering the title of this film, I will assume that a Spoiler Warning was not necessary for that last sentence.)

As I was watching the movie, I was able to admire the performance by Marno in the leading role (though her character was portrayed in such a ridiculously saintly manner that I actually found myself wishing that she had committed adultery after all just so that she would seem a little more human and interesting) but her work is quickly overwhelmed by any number of problems, such as the terrible performances from virtually everyone else, the occasionally risible dialogue (my favorite being the bit where someone admonishes the mullah with “Who are you to be so righteous?”) and the fact that co-writer/director Cyrus Nowrasteh delivers the material with all the subtlety and grace of. . .well, of a rock to the head. Before long, however, an unsettling thought began to occur to me. Let us be honest--very few people are going to rush out of their homes this weekend to go see this movie and of those who do, virtually none of them are going to be going in unawares of the brutality of life in rural Iran for women who refuses to simply act as virtual slaves. Therefore, it would seem that, as I said before, that the only reason that most viewers would want to see this film is for the climactic scene in which Soraya is brutally stoned to death, a sequence that lasts something like ten minutes and is just as savage in its own way as Jesus getting beaten and bloodied throughout “The Passion of the Christ.” It goes on for so long, however, that whatever educational point it might have had long disappears and the entire thing turns into a violent geek show filled with close-ups of oozing wounds and broken bones for the delectation of the gorehounds in the audience. (Yes, the make-up guys get a special mention in the opening credits.) Yes, the scene is supposed to be upsetting but as depicted here, it is upsetting for all the wrong reasons.

Look, I am not trying to sit here and say that Iran is a blameless and innocent country with a perfect record in regards to human rights towards its citizens. However, “The Stoning of Soraya M” stacks the deck so overwhelmingly (right down to having characters proclaiming that it is indeed a “man’s world”) and melodramatically (as when the casting of the first stone is dragged out to indescribable lengths as Saraya’s father keeps missing the target) that you quickly begin to resent it. Yes, the film will probably appeal to the red meat crowd out there that is eager to bomb the entire country back into the Stone Age just on general principles. However, if you aren’t in the market for a movie heavy-handed enough to make “Midnight Express” look like “Roman Holiday” by comparison, you are better off staying at home and watching the news.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17920&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/26/09 00:02:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/12/10 annoyed viewer Completely agree w review. popcorn porn for intellectuals. disgusting & dumb. 1 stars
4/29/10 Anna You get what you deserve for your beliefs, why candy coat it? 4 stars
7/02/09 Ming a Very Difficult movie to watch..Iran looks like a very primative world and allow to happen 3 stars
6/28/09 Sarah Hard to watch...but a great movie!!! 5 stars
6/27/09 packsoldier The deck is stacked? Are you seriously defending these sadistic bastards? 5 stars
6/26/09 MAry Amazing film Just amazing!! Blew me away! Best film I have ever seen. Shohreh is my hero!!! 5 stars
9/10/08 Edward A very special film. Cyrus N. is a hero for making it. 5 stars
9/09/08 pmc difficult movie to watch 4 stars
9/09/08 tommy The Director exposes honor-killings, women's and human rights like never seen-great film! 5 stars
9/08/08 Stephen Stunning film. Mob rule can be chaotic - and the evils of some men can be vile. 5 stars
9/08/08 Johnny A. This was hard to watch...a film I think everyone should see. Close your eyes, if you can. 5 stars
9/08/08 Cara Janss Excellent Devastating Heart Wrenching 5 stars
9/08/08 bobby derringer devastating 5 stars
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  26-Jun-2009 (R)
  DVD: 09-Mar-2010


  DVD: 09-Mar-2010

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