Score: 6 (10 is max.)
Summary: Astonishing real story of a woman falsely accused of adultery in the sharia Iran of 1986 after the Islamic revolution dictatorship. Based on best seller by Iranian French journalist Freidoune Sahebjam.
Review: Soraya (Mozhan Marnò) lives in a dead end small shah Iranian village with his four children and separated from her husband, Sahebjam. His husband, an ex prison officer, wanted to marry a 14 year old girl but he didn’t wanted to pay for both wives.
For this reason, Soraya finds refuge at her aunt’s, Zarha (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who treats her like her own daughter and veils for her interest and safety.
Under beatings and verbal violence, he ostracizes his wife and places his two sons against her and everybody he knew at the village. Two other key players in the village, the mayor and the spiritual leader, will help the husband to create a plan so this one can gets rid of the woman abiding the sharia laws. The spiritual leader himself was an ex convict, never making it to the religious school and always threaten by Sahebjam if the mullah doesn’t fulfills his will.
After a neighbor’s wife sudden death, Soraya is impelled by the mullah to go and serve the left alone widower. In this perfect set, Sahebjam will accuse Soraya of sleeping with the neighbor, what all she did was faithfully serve the neighbor as indicated.
According to Islamic law, the husband will need another witness in order to go forward with his plan of killing his wife, and this will be the poor neighbor, after he was threaten by the mullah of sending his differently able child to a mental institution.
The set is set, the mullah calls the regional revolutionary guards to retain Soraya, while the whole village prepares with joy to the fun event for all the family of a dilapidation or stoning, God forbid, all according to what G’d (Allah) “wants”.
Meticulously they would gather and testify, falsely against Soraya, so the process can begin. And so it does, among the excited villagers: kids gather with diligence stones of the proper size, the mayor will measure the distance from the ditch dig and where the killers are to stand when throwing the stones.
One by one, they are given stones by the mullah beginning with Soraya’s father, her husband, her two sons, the mullah, and the rest of the village. All filled with hatred and “Allah hu Akhbar!”, all celebrate this carnival of blood and cruelty claiming to follow G’ds will.
In the midst of this, the following day, a journalist will step into the village in order to fix his car flat tire. Zarha will contact him and record in a cassette a narration of the murder of her niece. The mullah and the mayor wanted to retain the young journalist for they knew Zarha told him the whole story, so they frisk him and only then let him go. Zarha would wait for him at the exit of the town with the audio cassette with the recording in her hand so when her confident passed by, she gave it to him, to the astonishing eyes of the whole village. Thanks to this, French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam’s will publish in 1990 “La Femme Lapidée”. The book was banned in Iran, but the whole story of the murder of Soraya M. is no longer a local Iranian one.
Critic: I remember Shohreh Aghdashloo in 2003 “House of Sand and Fog” as the wife of the ex Iranian shah colonel, and then I knew I was in front a a character actress. Though, as many foreign personal working in Hollywood, many of the parts played fit the American stigmatization, and thus in these two movies, Shohreh plays as well an Iranian woman, of a strong character and will, intelligent, independent after her husband passed away, and smart enough to play with the only tools left to a woman after the Islamic revolution. She put down the mayor’s offer of remarrying her and preferred to keep her autonomy. She will fight against the wrong doings of her primitive and otherwise barbarians co-religionists. She will stand against the mullah, when he comes to Soraya asking her to marry him after she divorces Sahebjam.
If I were the director, I would have taken as topic of this movie, a real woman cheating on his husband and still the movie will be cruel. I wonder whether we are justifying the cruelties of the sharia laws appealing to the fact that she was innocent, otherwise, “it would be fair to stone her”
Other pictures related to the topic:
2.- Interview with Shohreh Aghdashloo (Zarha):
3.- TV interview with director Cyrus Nowrasteh:
4.- Another interview with movie’s main character, Zarha: