Having followed the efforts of Mpower Pictures to get The Stoning of Soraya M to the screen, I can vouch that the opening date this Friday has nothing but coincidental connection to the Iranian uprising of the past week. Hugh Hewitt noticed this serendipitous scheduling, and suggests in today’s Washington Examiner that people around the world can send a message to Iran by flocking to the theaters on its release:
Americans are again asking “How can I help?” In this case, though, the government wants exactly the opposite of help for the suffering. The regime wants to increase the pain of the people, not alleviate it. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad want to punish, imprison and eventually execute those who call on the West for help.
Since open contact with a dissident can bring the Basij to the dissident’s door, what’s an ordinary American to do?
Go see the movie “The Stoning of Soraya M” when it opens this week in cities across the United States. Buy tickets for your friends. Sell out every screening, and then when the film appears in more cities the following week, go again to a different theater.
Buy more tickets for more friends. Make the opening of the movie an occasion for embarrassing the Mullahs who are killing their own people. Help generate headlines that bring attention to the movie, and through it, to the regime that allows this sort of barbarism to continue.
The movie is beautiful and deeply moving, and the film’s opening would have been an enormous story even had Iran not erupted in a long-suppressed general demand for freedom from tyranny. Stoning is an abhorrent practice, but one that still goes on in Iran, as recently as March of this year, according to Radio Free Europe, when a 30-year old man was stoned to death for adultery. …
Much more to the point, though, is the fundamental evil of a law code that consigns all women to a second-class status and through which the worst sorts of cruelty are not merely not punished but even endorsed. … Every American who sees “The Stoning of Soraya M” will emerge from the theater far wiser about what is driving the revolt of the people in Iran. These demonstrators want their freedom from theocracy.
I agree with Hugh that people should take this opportunity to see Soraya as soon as possible, for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, it’s simply a brilliant film. Even without the heavy political overtones, Soraya should take its place among the best of independent cinema, and the struggle to bring it to theaters should pay off in exceptional box office.
Will a big turnout embarrass the Iranian mullahcracy? I rather doubt it, especially at the moment, while they struggle to keep their grip on power. It won’t help the mullahs, certainly, but this movie is about more than just Iran, or Islamic theocracies, or religion at all. It’s more about what happens to women (and men, too) in societies where they have no rights, are chattel, and live at the mercy of those who wield absolute power.
People expecting an anti-Muslim diatribe will be disappointed; the film’s protagonist, Zahra (portrayed by Shoreh Aghdashloo) is a devout Muslim, for instance, and the local imam who helps perpetrate the atrocity is a fraud. Soraya treats Islam respectfully while focusing rightly on the true issue, which is the radical disempowerment of women in societies around the world, and the men who exploit that powerlessness for their own ends. To the extent that this will embarrass the Iranian mullahs, that shame will come not from their religion but in the way they have manipulated it to keep women powerless — which is one reason why women have joined the front lines of the protest, and why one has become a martyr for the liberation of all Iranians.
Tomorrow, I will interview Navid Negahban, who portrays Soraya’s husband with an unforgettable combination of malevolence, pettiness, and corruption, on The Ed Morrissey Show. Navid will appear live on Skype and will talk more about the film and the situation in his native Iran.