The Stoning of Soraya M.

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The Stoning of Soraya M.
The Stoning of Soraya M. US Poster.jpg
U.S. theatrical release poster
Persian: .سنگسار ثريا م
Directed byCyrus Nowrasteh
Produced byStephen McEveety
John Shepherd
Todd Burns
Diane Hendricks[1][2]
Written byBetsy Giffen Nowrasteh
Cyrus Nowrasteh
Based onLa Femme Lapidée
by Freidoune Sahebjam
StarringMozhan Marnò
Shohreh Aghdashloo
Jim Caviezel
Parviz Sayyad
Vida Ghahremani
Navid Negahban
Music byJohn Debney
CinematographyJoel Ransom
Edited byDavid Handman
Geoffrey Rowland
Distributed byRoadside Attractions
Release date
  • September 7, 2008 (2008-09-07) (TIFF)
  • June 26, 2009 (2009-06-26) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,090,260[3]

The Stoning of Soraya M. (Persian: .سنگسار ثريا م‎, romanizedSangsâr Sorayâ M.) is a 2008 Persian-language American drama film adapted from French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam's 1990 book La Femme Lapidée.

The film is directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, and stars Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (as Zahra), James Caviezel (as Freidoune Sahebjam, the foreign journalist), and Mozhan Marnò (as Soraya Manutchehri, the title character). The Stoning of Soraya M. had its world premiere at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the Director's Choice Award. It was also the second runner-up for the Cadillac People's Choice Award. The book has been banned in Iran.[4]


Stranded in the remote Iranian village of Kuhpayeh by car trouble, a journalist is approached by Zahra, a woman with a harrowing tale to tell about her niece, Soraya, and the bloody circumstances of Soraya's death, by stoning, the previous day. The two sit down as Zahra recounts the story to Freidoune, who records the conversation with his tape recorder. The journalist must escape with his life to tell the story to the rest of the world.

Ali is Soraya's abusive husband who tries to get the village's mullah to convince Soraya to grant him a divorce so that he can marry a 14-year-old girl.[5][6] Ali is able to convince the mullah by making threats to tell the rest of the village about his past as a convict.

Ali's marriage to the teenager is conditional on Ali's ability to save the girl's father, a doctor who has been sentenced to death for an unspecified crime. The mullah proposes that Soraya becomes his temporary wife, referred to in Iran as 'Sigeh', in exchange for protection and monetary support for Soraya and her two daughters. Zahra barges in and encourages Soraya to refuse the offer. Soraya has two sons whom Ali wants, and who have both turned against her. Some days following the incident, a woman dies. The mullah, the village's mayor, and Ali ask Zahra to persuade Soraya to care for the widower. Zahra suggests that Soraya may do the job if she is paid.

Soraya starts working for the widower, and Ali plans to use the unusual circumstance to spread lies that Soraya is being unfaithful to him so that she will be stoned and he can remarry. Ali also knows if Soraya were dead, he would not have to pay child support. Ali and the mullah start a rumor about Soraya's infidelity so they can charge her with adultery. One day while Zahra is walking in town, she realizes that a rumor has spread that her niece is being unfaithful to her husband.

Ali and the mullah need one more "witness" to Soraya's "infidelity" to be able to formally charge her. They visit the widower at home and, using threats, manipulate the widower into agreeing to back up their story. Soon after, Ali drags Soraya through the streets, beating her and publicly declaring that she has been unfaithful. Zahra intervenes, and takes her niece, Ali, and the Mayor of the village to her house to talk privately. They bring the widower to the home, and, after he lies and says that they had engaged in adultery, a trial is pursued. Only men, including Soraya's father, are allowed while Soraya is confined with some women in Zahra's house. She is quickly convicted. Zahra tries to flee with her and after realizing she cannot, goes to plead with the mayor for Soraya's life, even offering to switch places with Soraya. The conviction is upheld though, and as they are preparing for the stoning, the Mayor prays to Allah for a sign if they are not doing the right thing.[7]

Before the actual stoning can begin, a traveling carnival van comes through and tries to perform their act. They are shooed away, where they wait by the sidelines as the stoning begins. Soraya's father disowns her as he is given the first stone to throw, but he misses her repeatedly. A woman in the crowd pleads to the mayor that the stones missing are a sign that Soraya is innocent, but none of the men listen. Ali takes up stones and throws them himself. Her two sons are also forced to throw stones.[5][6] The widower is given two stones to throw but instead walks away in tears. The crowd finally joins in and Soraya is stoned to death.

Zahra is heard narrating the story to the journalist about her niece. Soon, the widower walks in and informs the journalist that his car is fixed. A short while later, the mullah and the widower are informed by Ali that his marriage to the teenage girl is off, implying that he could not spare her father from execution. Angry about the fact that he had been coerced by Ali and the mullah into lying, the widower admits that he lied. As the journalist attempts to leave with his belongings, and collect his vehicle, since it has been repaired by the widower, the mullah orders a Revolutionary Guard to stop him at gunpoint. They spill out the belongings of his bag, seize his tape recorder, and destroy all of the tapes. But as the journalist prepares to drive away, Zahra appears out of an alley with the true tape in her hand. Men attempt to run after the car before the journalist is able to drive away. Zahra screams that the God that she loves is great, and now, the whole world will know of the injustice that has happened.[5][6]



The international best-seller book tells the story of one of the victims of stoning in modern Iran.[8][9][10]

Soraya Manutchehri's husband Ghorban-Ali was an ambitious man, prone to fits of rage. He wanted a way out of his marriage, in order to marry a 14-year-old girl, but did not want to support two families or return Soraya's dowry.[11] When Soraya began cooking for a local widower, he found a way to achieve his goal. Abetted by venal and corrupt village authorities, who also turned her father against her, he accused his wife of adultery. She was convicted, buried up to her waist, and stoned to death.[8][9][10]


The son of a former Iranian ambassador, French-Iranian journalist and war correspondent Freidoune Sahebjam has also reported on the crimes of the Iranian government against the Bahá'í community in Iran.[12] He was traveling through Iran, when he came upon Soraya's village, where he learned from her aunt about Soraya and her cruel fate.[13]

Credibility of Freidoune Sahebjam's story and film plot itself is disputed by many Iranian critics,[14][15] expert Elise Auerbach from Amnesty International,[16] and film critics like Richard Nilsen from The Arizona Republic[17] and Wesley Morris from Boston Globe.[18]


Box office and financing[edit]

The film opened at #32 at the U.S. box office in 27 theaters, grossing $115,053 in the opening weekend. As of August 30, its domestic grossing is $636,246.[3] It grossed $1,090,260 worldwide.[3]

Film received financing led by Mpower Pictures, the company started by President John Shepherd, Stephen McEveety, and Todd Burns.[19] Additional financing came from Blackwater founder Erik Prince.[20][21]

Critical reception[edit]

The Stoning of Soraya M. received generally mixed reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 57% approval rating, with an average score of 6 out of 10, based on 82 collected reviews; its consensus states: "The Stoning of Soraya M. nearly transcends its deficiencies through the sheer strength of its subject material, but ultimately drowns out its message with an inappropriately heavy-handed approach."[22] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film an average score of 50 based on 20 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23]

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave a favorable review, for which he writes:


Award Category Recipients and nominees Outcome
Flanders International Film Festival Canvas Audience Award - Won
Gran Prix - Best Film Cyrus Nowrasteh Nominated
Heartland Film Festival Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award Cyrus Nowrasteh Won
Los Angeles Film Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Cyrus Nowrasteh Won
Satellite Awards Best Motion Picture, Drama - Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama Shohreh Aghdashloo Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Mozhan Marnò Nominated
Toronto International Film Festival Runner Up Audience Choice Award Cyrus Nowrasteh Won
Movieguide Awards Faith & Freedom Award for Movies The Stoning of Soraya M. Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beloit Daily News
  2. ^ New York Times
  3. ^ a b c "The Stoning of Soraya M. (2009)". Box Office Mojo. November 24, 2009. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
  4. ^ Oliver, Christian (March 10, 2010). "Street Slang Proves Big Hit with Book Lovers". Reuters. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "The Stoning of Soraya M. Review". Screen Rant. c. 2009. Retrieved October 10, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Harry Forbes and John Mulderig (2009). "The Stoning of Soraya M." Catholic News Service. Retrieved October 10, 2010.
  7. ^ The Stoning of Soraya M. Google Books. Arcade Publishing. 1994. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Iran Death penalty by stoning". New Europe. March 28, 2013. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Iranians still facing death by stoning despite 'reprieve'". The Guardian. July 8, 2010.
  10. ^ a b "Stoning to Death in Iran: A Crime Against Humanity Carried Out By the Mullahs' Regime".
  11. ^ "The Stoning of Soraya M." August 12, 2009. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
  12. ^ "Tuesday 9 Stoning of Soraya M: Fighting for Justice". June 9, 2009. Archived from the original on November 21, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
  13. ^ Colson, Chuck (June 25, 2009). "'The Stoning of Soraya M.'". Retrieved May 9, 2010.
  14. ^ "آهستان » سنگسار مردم ايران در هاليوود!". Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  15. ^ "اهداف فیلم سنگسار ثریا و نقد آن - پرسمان دانشجويي - اندیشه ی سیاسی". Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  16. ^ Worldwide, Amnesty International Defending Human Rights (July 25, 2009). "Sensationalist Film Exploits Human Rights Issue in Iran". Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  17. ^ "'The Stoning of Soraya M.'". Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  18. ^ Morris, Wesley (June 26, 2009). "Stoning of Soraya M." Retrieved November 26, 2016 – via The Boston Globe.
  19. ^ MPower
  20. ^ Simons, Suzanne (2009). Master of War: Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War. New York City: Harper. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-06-165135-9.
  21. ^ Daily Caller
  22. ^ "The Stoning of Soraya M." Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  23. ^ "The Stoning of Soraya M." Metacritic. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  24. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 24, 2009), "The Stoning of Soraya M.", Chicago Sun-Time,, retrieved November 26, 2016

External links[edit]