A stoning in an Iranian village is usually not a cause for hope.
The details themselves are horrifying — a woman falsely accused of adultery, set up by her husband, condemned by a group which included two of her sons, and ultimately stoned to death under Sharia law.
But then the woman’s aunt told a visiting journalist. That journalist, Freidoune Sahebjam, told the world. And finally, 19 years later, director Cyrus Nowrasteh brought the story to Hollywood.
“Fundamentally, this is a story about injustice,” Nowarsteh told HUMAN EVENTS about his film, The Stoning of Soraya M. Even the Huffington Post gave it a glowing review for its ability to simply tell a story rather than give a political sermon.
Not surprisingly, the Iranians banned Nowarsteh’s film in March.
“The Iranian actors and cast in this movie were on a mission to get this story out,” Nowarsteh said. “They felt that this is something that kind of gets brushed under the rug a lot, and Iranians don’t like to face some of the ugly side of the Islamic republic. Now, that’s kind of changed in recent weeks where we’ve seen demonstrations and rioting and turmoil in the streets, because people are dissatisfied. And this movie, I think, expresses some of that dissatisfaction.”
Nowarsteh said the film, a “subtitled movie playing in art houses,” is getting great exit polling and should stay around for awhile. He’d be pleased if the movie helped force the Iranian government to take a closer look at whether stoning should continue to be allowed.
“Stoning has happened, continued to happen, and they’re still on the books in Iran in the Islamic penal code, so I feel like, boy, that’s where our priority is,” Nowarsteh said. “And that may not make everybody happy.”
As a journalist, an actor, or even a director, you never know whose story you will be asked to tell. You always hope you’ll have the courage to do so, regardless of political or physical repercussions. Sahebjam was sentenced to death in absentia by Iran for his critical reporting of its government. The brother of Shohreh Aghdashloo, the lead actress in the film, was reportedly held by the Iranian government because his sister dared to speak out, though he was eventually released (all of this happened prior to the movie).
That’s why, ultimately, Soraya’s story is not over — its ending is yet to be written by politicians, by freedom fighters, by directors, journalists, and anyone who cares enough to fight against injustice, even if all that means is walking up to a box office and buying a movie ticket.