A film whose time has come

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

On June 16 as I was driv­ing home from a screen­ing of “The Ston­ing of So­raya M.,” a pro­foundly mov­ing and eerily timely drama that of­fi­cially came out June 26, I found my­self stuck in a bizarre late-night traf­fic jam think­ing of ways to spread the word about this po­ten­tially trans­for­ma­tive movie that thrusts its au­di­ence into the day’s head­lines and draws at­ten­tion to the plight of those who could po­ten­tially top­ple Iran’s cruel and men­ac­ing theoc­racy.

With an LAPD he­li­copter hov­er­ing above me in the night sky, I called home to ask my wife why our neigh­bor­hood was cor­doned off, with traf­fic en­force­ment redi­rect­ing cars around the perime­ter of the Los An­ge­les Fed­eral Build­ing. She couldn’t find any­thing on TV. When I reached home, I dis­cov­ered via Twit­ter that thou­sands of Ira­nian-Amer­i­cans, plen­ti­ful in West Los An­ge­les since the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion in 1979, were demon­strat­ing sol­i­dar­ity with fam­ily and friends in Tehran by protest­ing the rigged Ira­nian elec­tion re­sults and draw­ing at­ten­tion to the regime’s long­stand­ing hu­man rights abuses.

The clo­sure of a seg­ment of Wil­shire Boule­vard, a key eastwest artery, spoke to the ur­gency and mag­ni­tude of the sit­u­a­tion.

“The Ston­ing of So­raya M.” has the ca­pac­ity to be­come a sym­bol for the Ira­nian coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion. Its grip­ping nar­ra­tive and un­for­get­table, graphic end­ing will open the eyes of Western­ers who have only in­tel­lec­tu­al­ized the plight of many women in the Mid­dle East and per­haps will in­flu­ence those who have stood on the side­lines while th­ese atroc­i­ties con­tinue.

If prop­erly pro­moted through the on­line so­cial me­dia that is in­form­ing the world and fu­el­ing mass demon­stra­tions, this film could be­come a cat­alytic phe­nom­e­non where the new and old me­dia or­gan­i­cally work to­gether to af­fect po­lit­i­cal and so­cial change.

Co-writ­ten and di­rected by Ira­nian-Amer­i­can Cyrus Nowrasteh, and based on the 1994 novel by French-Ira­nian jour­nal­ist Frei­doune Sa­he­b­jam, “The Ston­ing of So­raya M.” fo­cuses our eyes on the hu­man rights in­jus­tices and theo­cratic tyranny.

The film tells the true story of an in­no­cent woman who lost her life through the most un­fair of pub­lic show tri­als and the cru- elest of meth­ods. In the ti­tle role, Mozhan Marno puts a haunt­ing face on the sub­ject of women’s op­pres­sion un­der Iran’s cor­rupt Shariah jus­tice sys­tem and the cod­i­fi­ca­tion of ex­treme misog­yny.

Watch­ing So­raya die, with her face mu­ti­lated at the hands of her own fam­ily and fel­low vil­lagers, is a nec­es­sary cli­max whose only com­pa­ra­ble scene in re­cent cin­ema is the cru­ci­fix­ion of Je­sus in “The Pas­sion of the Christ.” Both films were co-pro­duced by the un­com­pro­mis­ing Steve McEveety.

Ira­nian ex­pa­tri­ate Shohreh Aghdashloo, the deep and smokyvoiced Academy Award-nom­i­nated ac­tress (“House of Sand and Fog”) gives an un­for­get­table per­for­mance as So­raya M.’s aunt, Zahra. Here is the por­trait of a strong woman fear­lessly fac­ing her op­pres­sors. While she fails to stop the tragedy of So­raya’s death, she risks her own life to en­sure that th­ese events, which tran­spired in a small Ira­nian vil­lage in the 1980s, would be made known to the world. The im­pact of a west- ern Mus­lim woman por­tray­ing the plight of her sis­ters in the op­pressed Mus­lim world is in­de­scrib­ably pow­er­ful.

Miss Aghdashloo, who left Iran in 1979 and earned a de­gree in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, is in a unique po­si­tion to ed­u­cate and ac­ti­vate mil­lions while pro­mot­ing “The Ston­ing of So­raya M.” Her ap­pear­ances so far on NBC’s “To­day” show and “CNN” brought the in­fo­tain­ment cul­ture a needed dose of re­al­ity.

Speak­ing to guest host Wolf Bl­itzer on “Larry King Live,” Miss Aghdashloo said, “I feel like cry­ing [. . . ]. Af­ter 30 years, the Ira­ni­ans have at last de­cided to take their des­tiny in their own hands.”

“It’s not about the woman who is be­ing stoned,” she con­tin­ued. “It’s about a woman who re­fuses to re­main si­lent. And the irony is that this coura­geous woman ap­proaches a re­porter,” played by Jim Caviezel.

She “tells the re­porter the story and wants the re­porter to tell it to the world. The same thing is hap­pen­ing in Iran right now,” Miss Aghdashloo said.

So far, “The Ston­ing of So­raya M.” is get­ting rave re­views from across the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum. But awards and plau­dits are not what Zahra risked her life for. Other Amer­i­cans need to join free­dom-loving Ira­nian-Amer­i­cans and see this film. One hopes view­ers take in­spi­ra­tion from this brave woman and spread her story on Face­book, Twit­ter and be­yond.

In the movie, Zahra clutches her throat and says “Take My Voice.” That should be the mes­sage to Ira­ni­ans, from her and from Amer­i­can movie­go­ers: “Take my voice and tear down this wall.”

An­drew Bre­it­bart is pub­lisher of the news por­tals Bre­it­bart.com and Bre­it­bart.tv. His lat­est en­deavor, Big Hol­ly­wood (http://bighol­ly­wood.bre­it­bart.com), is a group blog on Hol­ly­wood and pol­i­tics from the cen­ter-right per­spec­tive.

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