The Stoning of Soraya M. Cyrus Nowrasteh

The Stoning of Soraya M. Cyrus Nowrasteh
Adapted from French/Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam's 1994 novel of the same name, The Stoning of Soraya M. details a spoken account of the unjust stoning of the titular woman in a remote Iranian village. It aptly preaches the execrable reality of misogyny within Sharia law and the vile nature of hypocrisy in instances of power imbalance, encouraging passion and audience collusion, but may very well be the most poorly made, hammy and expositional film released in theatres thus far in 2009.

Using the framing device of said journalist, Freidoune (Jim Caviezel) unexpectedly suffers a car breakdown in remote Iran, where the local "crazy" woman, Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo), serves him tea and offers a vivid depiction of human brutality. We learn, as he does, of Soraya (Mozhan Marno), a wife and mother asked by the village mullah (Ali Pourtash) to divorce her cackling, two-dimensional villain of a husband (Navid Negahban) so that he can get carnal with a 14-year-old in braces.

When she refuses for reasons of a fiscal and motherly nature, her husband frames her for adultery, leading to the titular, horrific stoning, which, as it turns out, is one of the most disturbing and nauseating moments captured on film.

While there is no debating the intentions of this hot-button movie, the manner in which the message is communicated is groan-inducing at best. Characters declare their emotional state and intentions as fact at every possible turn, while the agenda ("You would listen to me if I was a man") sits at the forefront of every mealy, one-dimensional scene.

There's a distinctive high-school play tone that leads one to wonder if the cast will come together in front of the camera and say "stoning, misogyny and religious ignorance are bad, kids" at the conclusion, just in case we didn't get it the first 40 times.

This is a shame, as this is a story that needs to be told and a voice that needs to be heard. (Mongrel Media)