Monday, April 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Stoning of Soroya M.

I would never call myself a feminist by any measure, but after watching this movie, I am even more thankful for living in this country and for the freedoms and dignity women we American women enjoy.

The Stoning of Soroya M. is based on the true story of a Iranian wife and mother who is falsely accused of adultery by her husband, tried in the village court (peopled my males only), found guilty, and then sentenced to die by stoning. Soroya becomes the victim of a conspiracy headed by her husband because she refuses to grant him a divorce so that he may marry a 14 year old girl that has caught his eye. If Soroya had agreed to the divorce, she and her two daughters would be left destitute, with no income, no food, and without recourse, while her husband would be free to remarry and free to take her two sons from her. Such is the plight of women in many Moslem villages. Under Sharia Law, a woman accused of adultery must prove her innocence, while a man accused of adultery must be proven guilty. Nice law.

The story is told by Soroya's aunt, Zahra, who tried unsuccessfully to protect her niece from horrific injustice. In an effort to expose the brutality that had recently occurred in the village, Zahra approaches a wayward reporter who has just happened upon the village. The reporter, played by James Caviezel, was French-Iraninan journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, who after recording Zahra's heartwrenching tale, writes the book of the same name.

This is not a date night movie. It is a depressing, brutal film and was very difficult to watch. Even so, I would recommend seeing this movie, just as a reminder that these absolutely monstrous crimes against women occur even today in the Islamic world. While I was unable to view the actual depiction of the stoning, turning my face away with each stone that is thrown, the story was one that needed to be told and needs to be retold until these crimes no longer occur. Throughout the stoning scene, I was reminded of the beautifully dramatic scene in The Passion in which Christ draws the line in the dust while in the background a group of Pharisees demands the stoning of the prostitute. What a gift Christ's mercy is.

If you felt the violence in The Passion was overmuch, you will not be able to stomach this movie, either. In fact, you may want to read this review of the film in the NY Times, although this particular reviewer did not understand the meaning of either film. The stoning scene is horrific and much of the subject matter is mature. I would recommend this film for adults only.
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