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Casting the first stone

The distributors of "The Stoning of Soraya M," according to the "Hollywood Reporter," face a delicate opportunity as the release of the film coincides with the ongoing turmoil in Iran over the disputed election. The film is based on the true story of the 1986 stoning death of an Iranian woman accused of adultery by her husband who wanted to get rid of her for a new wife. "Anyone watching TV can see this is about a certain kind of religious fascism that was present 20 years ago and is present now," said producer Stephen McEveety about the film's relevance to today's situation. "If you Google the subject, you'll see stonings going on today."

Another story you might come up with is that of Neda, the young woman shot to death by police during demonstrations against Ahmadinejad in Tehran. No doubt inflammatory images like that have increased the recent interest in "Soraya," which, according to the IMDB, by over 1,000%. But is it ethical or tasteful to exploit such a horrific events to promote an entertainment?

Who am I kidding? Shortly after writing the above I got an e-mail from the film's publicist  that begins: "Why is this film so important and relevant?  Let's connect the dots . . . In March 2009 the Iranian regime condemns and bans our movie - now the parliament plans to end some punishments." 

Well, with that kind of post hoc/ergo propter hoc reasoning, perhaps we can also attribute the election fraud and the violent crackdown on demonstrators to "Soraya" also?

Okay,  I haven't seen the movie myself.  However in Brett Michel's review, which will come out this week, he gives it one star and concludes: "Poorly written (with his wife Betsy) and directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, it's as black-and-white as his scripts for the TV movies 'The Path to 9/11' and 'The Day Reagan Was Shot.'" Based on that I would suspect that the film encourages a kind of demonizing approach to the situation, with clearcut good guys and bad guys and therefore demanding an immediate unambiguous response. The kind of approach, in other words, that has worked so well for us as foreign policy in the past and is still being urged by these clowns.

Meanwhile, one film I did see was Majid Majidi's "Song of the Sparrows," which opened June 5. It depicts Iranians as diverse, complex and non-stereotypical human beings. It also sheds some light on the conflict between the traditional, mostly rural culture and the urban more modern perspective that seems to underlie a lot of the current strife. This film might enlighten people about what's going on over there. But unlike "Soraya" it won't be cashing in on the crisis because it was pulled from the theater after a one week run.

  • Learned Hand said:

    Cashing in on the crisis?  Film makers finance and release and R-rated true story that is graphically violent, shot in Farsi with all but one unknown actor... because they (apparently) believe that women in countries that have in their penal code -- death by stoning as an appropriate form of punishment -- deserve better??  Yeah-- that sounds like a real money maker.  The greedy bastards!  Don't we all know that only critics, esp those like Brett Michel are the only altruistic people on the planet that are actually allowed to care about human rights, women's rights and that have the divine eye to judge other people's motives??  Sheesh.

    June 23, 2009 10:37 PM
  • Agreed said:

    I agree completely with Learned Hand. I don't think they're trying to "cash in on the crisis." They're trying to spread the truth about how women are treated. It's the critics that see the film as entertainment. Brett Michel said it was poorly written. Maybe for an entertaining movie, yes. But if its script can shed some light on human rights, then by no means is it supposed to be entertainment.

    June 24, 2009 1:57 AM
  • Apperantly not Learned said:

    I have to question the animosity that's coming from this "comment" and to whom it's directed towards.  Where in Mr. Michel's review do you see any mention of profiteering?  Is it because he thought that a film suffers from bad writing, he deserves such harsh critisism?  Or is there some sort of alterior reasoning?  

    It seems as though you haven't seen the movie, or actually read his review...there in lies your true ignorance.

    June 24, 2009 3:10 PM

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