Monday, August 30, 2010


The stoning of a human to death, even if the crime being punished is horrendous, is one of the most inhumane, barbaric, dehumanizing, and cruel tortures that can be inflicted upon a person, especially if the community carrying out the sentence knows the victim. The horror is magnified when the person is innocent of the crime they are accused of. Stoning still exists in Iran, and its use there is but one criticism the world hurtles (justifiably) at the fundamentalist state. While some feel little sympathy for criminals, the punishment can also be carried out against those accused of adultery, a heavy penalty for an all too human sin. But in Iran some victims are most vulnerable to this terrible fate---women. Recently the case of Sakineh Ashtiani (a forty-three year old woman who apparently may have been coerced into admitting wrongdoing and also had language problems) has garnered international attention and condemnation. It is within this atmosphere that the movie The Stoning of Soroya M. vividly demonstrates not only the horrors of stoning, but also the misogynistic state of affairs in Iran. Based on a true story, it recounts the heroic efforts of Zahra (beautifully played by the lovely and husky voiced Shohreh Aghdashloo), wilfull and determined, who tries to protect her niece (the mother of four children) from the machinations of her spouse Ali (effectively and menacingly played by Navid Negahban), who wants to obtain a divorce on the cheap in order to marry a fourteen year old. Ali is a greedy, corrupt, manipulative, and brutal man, who terrorizes his family. Yet he has powerful allies in his little village (a mullah with questionable past and a weak mayor), and after weakening her position financially, and then actively soliciting her help to aid a newly widowed man and his son, they use false claims of adultery (as well as strong-arm tactics against the widower) to railroad Soroya straight into a hole and a rain of stones. Zahra then makes it her mission that she will not allow the story (and her niece’s bravery) to go unreported, and she enlists a French/Iranian journalist’s help. The movie pulls few punches and is vivid and direct, and emotionally draining. It is a heavy indictment against radical fundamentalism, woman-hatred, poor education, and male-dominated dictatorship. Although some scenes are very difficult to stomach, I encourage everyone to see it.

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