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Reckoning

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STONING OF SORAYA M., THE

SYNOPSIS:
Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is an Iranian widow with a terrible secret. When in 1986 French-Iranian journalist Freidoune (James Caviezel) is temporarily stranded in her village of Kupayeh, Zahra risks her life telling him the shocking events that led to the 'legalized' murder of her niece, Soraya (Mozhan Marno), falsely accused of adultery by her husband Ali (Navid Negahban) who wishes to be rid of her in order to marry a 14 year-old girl. The penalty for Soraya's crime is death by stoning.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With the melancholy cry of a sad cello, the film opens with a golden sun rising over the hills of a remote Iran landscape. It's a dynamic contrast of the power and beauty of nature with the unnatural power and ugliness of most of the men in the paternalistic community which we enter. The male dominated world is both unjust and hypocritical, hiding its venality and selfishness behind primitive traditions and under corrupt use of Islamic law. In this post Shah Iran, they are the pigs of Animal Farm.

Told in flashback as Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo) secretly tells all to stranded French-Iranian journalist Freidoune (James Caviezel). The story strikes several dramatic chords and is a full blown indictment of the ancient and primitive practice of stoning.

Zahra is a strong and principled woman, and Aghdashloo (Oscar nominee for House of Sand and Fog) delivers a tremendous performance, combining strength and determination with the indignation she feels at the scheming, unprincipled and pathetic men. She tries to avoid disaster and to influence the men, but her warnings are not heeded. Navid Negahban delivers a toxic Ali, mean, abusive, disrespectful and self centred, exerting influence on the weak men around him. Soraya of the title is beautifully played by Mozhan Marno, a delicate and heartbreaking performance balancing her lowly status (I'm an inconvenient wife') with her noble nature.

Ali Pourtash plays the local self-styled Mullah, even though he's far from godly, with a dark past. Mayor Ebrahim, too blind to resist the group of schemers, is played by David Diaan and both actors deliver recognisable, three dimensional characters. The tragic widower Hashem, a sad figure caught up in the evil scheme, is perfectly realised by Parviz Sayyad.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

STONING OF SORAYA M., THE (M)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Shohreh Aghdashloo, James Caviezel, Mozhan Marno, Navid Negahban, Ali Pourtash, David Diaan, Patviz Sayyad, Vida Ghahremani, Vachik Mangassarian, David Fariborz Davoodian

PRODUCER: Stephen McEveety, John Shepherd

DIRECTOR: Cyrus Nowrasteh

SCRIPT: Cyrus Nowrasteh, Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh (book by Freidoune Sahebjam)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Joel Ransom

EDITOR: David Handman, Geoffrey Rowland

MUSIC: John Debney

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Judy Rhee

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Accent

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 27, 2010







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