The Stoning of Soraya M.
Worldviews collide and burning embers fly in this gripping film based on a true story about evil at its worst and courage at its best. Starring Jim Caviezel (Jesus in The Passion of the Christ) and Shohreh Agdashloo (Mary in The Passion of the Christ) this story takes place in 1986 Iran. When he can’t convince his wife, Soraya, to give him a divorce because he wants to marry a 14-year old girl, Ali plots against her and frames her for the crime of adultery. The punishment of adultery is death by stoning. According to Shariah Law, if a man accuses his wife she must prove her innocence, but if a woman accuses her husband she must prove his guilt. With the man’s voice being the only voice given credibility in the Shariah culture, Soraya’s fate is certain.
And yet, in the throes of agony, as lust seems to triumph over innocence and justice falls victim to cowardice and evil schemes, courage shines forth in a divine aspect. When no one else was willing to defend the innocent, Soraya’s aunt plunged forward with all skill of tongue and swiftness of determination to challenge the evildoers about their motives and actions. I could not help but cheer her on for her love and bravery. There are few people in history who have fought as valiantly as she did for her niece.
In a world torn between political correctness and a fascination for lost causes, this movie is a bold undertaking. It is easy to cheer for The Titans, laugh with Kung Fu Panda, or cry during Dear John. But to have to admit that there are still places where women have no voice and brutal murder is an accepted religious custom, does not sit well in a politically correct world; this is especially so when it has to do with a religion that is rapidly growing in western world.
Yet every time someone watches The Stoning of Soraya M., her voice is heard once more. Her aunt promised that the world would know the truth of her life and death.
After hearing numerous reviews about this unique movie I decided to watch it. It is rated R (some strong language and thematic material) but I am finding that some of the most quality films are rated R for the strength of the story. In my opinion there are some PG-13 films that should be rated a lot heavier than R. Anyway, back to this movie. There is another side to America that we often don’t see. It’s the side that is encountering the raw harshness of survival in a society that is quick to help the poor halfway around the world, yet assumes everyone in the USA has assistance when they have difficulties. That is not true, however, and this film makes that point.
Desperation narrated this story: a 17-year old girl who longed to go to school but couldn’t because she was the sole provider for her family after her dad disappeared. If her dad did not make his court date the family would lose their property which he had put up for his bail. She sets out to find him but the road is dangerous. She faces drug lords, beatings, and threats of much worse. Eventually the truth of her dad’s disappearance becomes known and she is hurled into a situation that no child should ever have to experience, yet she manages for the sake of her family.
This young protagonist traverses life with a bearing that every princess could learn from. I would be slow to recommend this movie because of the heavy plot and the harsh language. I will probably not watch it a second time, but it has made me more sensitive to my fellow countrymen in the Ozarks and other parts of impoverished America.
Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events
This movie has been out for quite some time, but I shied away from watching it because I found the previews slightly disturbing. However, this year many of my students were reading the books and encouraging me to read them as well. I reluctantly gave in and began the series. I found them to be thought-provoking and satisfying in content and soon added the movie to my Netflix list.
I don’t know about you, but I have noticed a trend in books-turned-movies. They are often lacking in details and often detour from the original plot. Once again this was my expectation but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself watching a neatly compacted summary of the series, filled with family morals and respectfully heroic child protagonists. It left me with an “Awwww…” in the heart and I now have it mentally assigned to my “must own one day” list.
January 21, 2011
I enjoy watching a wide variety of movies and some of the older TV shows. Netflix is such a handy tool in this regard because they are readily available, even the hard-to-find shows. I remember watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman with my family and our neighbors when I was in elementary school and for nostalgic reasons I am watching the entire series once more. Another old favorite is Little House on the Prairie. Now is that a walk down memory lane or what? I read and re-read the book series as a child, have visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, MN, and therefore adore the TV show. Yet as I watch these beloved products of Hollywood, I can’t help but compare and contrast them with each other and more current products of the film industry, such as Date Night.
Let us, for a moment, consider the Ingalls family. Who would not want to be a member of that household, with the daily homecooked meals and the Saturday pies set out to cool on the window ledge; the sun-bonnets and fishing in the creek; the tin pails for lunch and Jack tagging faithfully along behind; and Pa’s faithful arms to run into whenever anything goes wrong in life. And the town! Everyone knows everyone and whenever there is a community crisis all of the men gather together and address the problem in a wise and loving way. It’s not a perfect life, but the foundation is secure and the children always know right from wrong. Family values are valued and passed on as heirlooms and a heritage.
Colorado Springs is not too different from Walnut Grove, though the show that portrays it was written 3o-some years later. Everyone still knows everyone, and children still find loving counsel in the hearts of their elders; but the issues are presented in a shade of gray. Tolerance for all is presented as one of the greatest virtues to defend: everyone has a right to their own opinion, even if their opinion does not align with what is clearly right. Interestingly enough, whereas the men of Walnut Grove were the defenders of the innocent and the sages of the community, most of the men in Colorado Springs are the troublemakers, needing to be put in their place by the women and children. The preacher has a good heart, but is relatively naive and somewhat of a Bible-thumper, compared to the Reverand Alden of the Ingalls community, who sincerely cares about all of his flock though he will not hesitate to reprove when reproof is necessary. Finally, the moral at the end of each story leaves one with more questions than answers. The children of Walnut Grove usually learned a serious lesson about life by the end of their story, whereas Brian and Colleen are more often the teachers in their community, leaving the adults looking just a bit on the foolish side. Yet despite their differences, both shows portray a strong sense of community and the need for family.
Spring ahead another 15 years with the Hollywood perspective on families. There is the unending supply of sitcoms that have absolutely no redeeming quality to them. Yet meager attempts are still being made to connect with the general public’s longing for substance and purpose. Take Date Night, for instance; here is a movie that tells the story of a marriage stuck in a rut. The couple begins to recognize that their relationship is no better than what the average set of roommates might have. Rather than throw up their hands in despair and split up, they decide to make a desperate attempt to regain the romance they once had. Needless to say, this chic-flick/comedy has its share of cheesy adventures and unnecessary humor, and the husband is still portrayed as more of a bumbler than the wife is; however, the moral of the story is clearly focused on the importance of family and honoring the vows of “for better or for worse…”
To sum up my reflection on movies old and new, the honest human must admit that lasting values are valued because they last. Family, commitment, right and wrong, and a natural order of children turning to their elders for guidance and love, are what give society its foundation. Deep inside we all long for a hero and a victory and though times change, that never will.
The King’s Speech
Slip back in time and encounter a powerful person who impacted the world by overcoming his fears. This is the story of King George VI – a gentle man with a stammer that inhibited him from speaking to the subjects of his empire, and the man who helped him conquer his stammer by becoming his friend.
The King’s Speech (rated R for a scene of language that was used to make a specific point, not to be crass for the sake of being crass) truly captured 20th century England, the differences between the common and the royal, and the universal need of everyone for unconditional friendship. The film also juxtaposed the power of good character with the turmoil that lack of character can bring, while also magnifying the damage of indifference towards the children depending on one’s care and good opinion.
A common thread that tied the story together was perseverance. The king persevered in conquering the stammer; his wife persevered in her support of him; his speech therapist persevered in being a true friend; England persevered in standing up against Hitler; the English populace persevered in their loyalty to the king. Finally, the message persevered in being told: never give up in doing what is right, especially in loving the children in your life, for every king was once a child.