- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2009


Last Tuesday as I was driving home from a screening of “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” a profoundly moving and eerily timely drama that comes out Friday, I found myself stuck in a bizarre late-night traffic jam thinking of ways to spread the word about this potentially transformative movie that thrusts its audience into the day’s headlines and draws attention to the plight of those who could potentially topple Iran’s cruel and menacing theocracy.

With an LAPD helicopter hovering above me in the night sky, I called home to ask my wife why our neighborhood was cordoned off, with traffic enforcement redirecting cars around the perimeter of the Los Angeles Federal Building. She couldn’t find anything on TV. When I reached home, I discovered via Twitter that thousands of Iranian-Americans, plentiful in West Los Angeles since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, were demonstrating solidarity with family and friends in Tehran by protesting the rigged Iranian election results and drawing attention to the regime’s long-standing human rights abuses.

The closure of a segment of Wilshire Boulevard, a key east-west artery, spoke to the urgency and magnitude of the situation.

“The Stoning of Soraya M.” has the capacity to become a symbol for the Iranian counterrevolution. Its gripping narrative and unforgettable, graphic ending will open the eyes of Westerners who have only intellectualized the plight of many women in the Middle East and perhaps will influence those who have stood on the sidelines while these atrocities continue.

If properly promoted through the online social media that is informing the world and fueling mass demonstrations, this film could become a catalytic phenomenon where the new and old media organically work together to affect political and social change.

Co-written and directed by Iranian-American Cyrus Nowrasteh, and based on the 1994 novel by French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” focuses our eyes on the human rights injustices and theocratic tyranny.

The film tells the true story of an innocent woman who lost her life through the most unfair of public show trials and the cruelest of methods. In the title role, Mozhan Marno puts a haunting face on the subject of women’s oppression under Iran’s corrupt Shariah justice system and the codification of extreme misogyny.

Watching Soraya die, with her face mutilated at the hands of her own family and fellow villagers, is a necessary climax whose only comparable scene in recent cinema is the crucifixion of Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.” Both films were co-produced by the uncompromising Steve McEveety.

Iranian expatriate Shohreh Aghdashloo, the deep and smoky-voiced Academy Award-nominated actress (“House of Sand and Fog”) gives an unforgettable performance as Soraya M.’s aunt, Zahra. Here is the portrait of a strong woman fearlessly facing her oppressors. While she fails to stop the tragedy of Soraya’s death, she risks her own life to ensure that these events, which transpired in a small Iranian village in the 1980s, would be made known to the world. The impact of a western Muslim woman portraying the plight of her sisters in the oppressed Muslim world is indescribably powerful.

Miss Aghdashloo, who left Iran in 1979 and earned a degree in international relations, is in a unique position to educate and activate millions while promoting “The Stoning of Soraya M.” Her appearances so far on NBC’s “Today” show and “CNN” brought the infotainment culture a needed dose of reality.

Speaking to guest host Wolf Blitzer on “Larry King Live,” Miss Aghdashloo said, “I feel like crying … . After 30 years, the Iranians have at last decided to take their destiny in their own hands.”

“It’s not about the woman who is being stoned,” she continued. “It’s about a woman who refuses to remain silent. And the irony is that this courageous woman approaches a reporter,” played by Jim Caviezel. She “tells the reporter the story and wants the reporter to tell it to the world. The same thing is happening in Iran right now,” Miss Aghdashloo said.

So far, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” is getting rave reviews from across the ideological spectrum. But awards and plaudits are not what Zahra risked her life for. On Friday, other Americans need to join freedom-loving Iranian-Americans and see this film. One hopes viewers take inspiration from this brave woman and spread her story on Facebook, Twitter and beyond.

In the movie, Zahra clutches her throat and says “Take My Voice.” That should be the message to Iranians, from her and from American moviegoers: “Take my voice and tear down this wall.”

• Andrew Breitbart is publisher of the news portals Breitbart.com and Breitbart.tv. His latest endeavor, Big Hollywood (https://bighollywood.breitbart.com/), is a group blog on Hollywood and politics from the center/right perspective

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