By Melissa Charbonneau on
On the heels of Iran’s controversial presidential election, the Iranian-born star and the Iranian-American director of the docu-drama “The Stoning of Soraya M.” will highlight human rights issues in Iran at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on June 17.
In a panel discussion, Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Sand and Fog,” “24”) and director Cyrus Nowrasteh (“The Path to 9/11”) will discuss the brutal practice of execution by stoning, injustices against women, international human rights violations, and their film “The Stoning of Soraya M.”
Adapted from French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam’s 1994 book “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” (Amazon) the film tells the true story of an incident that took place Iran in the 1980’s after the Islamic Revolution – the stoning execution of a young woman named Soraya, convicted on false charges of adultery. Journalist Sahebjam, played by Jim Caviezel (“Déjà vu,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Thin Red Line”) relays the tale told by Soraya’s aunt, played by Aghdashloo. The film’s graphic stoning scene has been called powerful, haunting, and difficult to watch, but one Aghdashloo says she had to do.
“I’ve been waiting to do this for 20 years,” says Aghdashloo, who fled her native Iran in the 1970’s, and filmed the feature not in her homeland but on location in the Middle East. “This one goes beyond an ordinary film for me. Despite all the negative voices around me when I started it, I did it. Some worried. Members of the family opposed it. My mother asked why I did this.”
Despite a nationwide tour to promote the film and raise awareness about global violations of women’s rights, the movie’s defenders dismiss suggestions that the film’s violent scenes linked to Islamic fundamentalism could unfairly spark new waves of anti-Muslim sentiment. A familiar charge for “Stoning” producer Steve McEveety (MPower Pictures), who faced similar criticism for the graphic scenes in Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ.”
Veteran film promoter Dennis Rice says the film is not anti-Muslim or anti-Iran, but instead a metaphor for a lot of issues that are relevant today and are occurring in many parts of the world. “An actual stoning is far more barbaric and difficult to watch,” says Rice. He says there was a fine line between watering down the stoning scene while still maintaining its visceral impact. “As the director told me, it is an artistic representation. It’s hard to portray something as barbaric as this so people will have the right response. To be any more watered down than it already is would be a gross disservice to any victim who’s endured this treatment.”
For the film’s star, speaking out on injustice against women is one reason she’s been unable to travel to her homeland for the last 30 years, but it’s an issue close to her heart. “I’ve never kept quiet and never gone back,” she says. “I’ve always been in danger. I felt like that many years now. It doesn’t matter. My life is not as important as the girls who’s been, who are at this very moment… on death row waiting to be stoned.”
Aghdashloo has also appeared in the BBC/HBO miniseries “House of Sadaam,” The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," "The Lake House, “American Dreamz,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” "The Nativity Story, and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” The film will be released nationwide in limited theaters on June 26. More information about the film can be found here.
Copyright © 2009 Look to the Stars