THE STONING OF SAYORA M.
(directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, 2008)
**** (out of 5)
> Taken from a bestselling book, this taut, sobering look at the injustice of Sharia law in Iran just after the fall of the Shah is a visceral kick in the gut. It’s an ugly story that highlights the intolerable treatment of women in Islamic society and their powerlessness and hopeless under a male-biased judicial system that is corrupt from written law to local judges.
. A good woman is married to a heinous evil worm of a man. She keeps the household the way she is expected to, gives him four children, two boys and two girls. But the cad has a wandering eye. He sets his un-wholesome sights of a much younger woman, and taking the valuable boys and leaving behind the worthless girls, he demands a divorce so he can immediately remarry, offering her little enough to ensure poverty and hunger for her remaining children, and a possible life of prostitution for her, in a society where divorced women have few other opportunities. Knowing this, she refuses him. But this bastard is not a man to be opposed. With no moral compunction whatsoever, he fabricates bogus charges of infidelity against her as a way to clear the obstacle separating him from his carnal desires.
. When the trial happens (little more than a codification of mob rule,) it is apparent this righteous woman is doomed. “In Islamic law, as you know…” hisses the reprehensible ‘holy man’, “…the man has all the rights and the woman has none.” It is the will of Allah. This is a fine, artfully crafted film with sharp imagery and highly effective editing. ‘Modern’ in every sense, this may be the best Iranian film I’ve yet seen. I tend to admire the films of Jafar Panahi and his contemporaries more than I enjoy them. (Though I remember loving “THE CYCLIST” from 1987.) As for the end: we know it’s coming. It’s there in the title. It’s what the film is about, but the public execution is a heinous thing to witness when it comes, an unspeakable act of premature revenge (in no sense justice), that is presented in an unblinkingly graphic way that is immensely uncomfortable to watch.
. I get it. It should be. It’s not a matter of cultural differences. It’s barbarism, pure and simple…
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