Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Special Showing of An Award Winning Film in Syracuse This Wednesday

On Wednesday, March 16th, a special showing of the award-winning film The Stoning of Soraya M. was held at the G.O.E. Center on 7th North Street in Syracuse.  The event was promoted on Facebook and on

The event attracted a good number of people from different faiths to watch and discuss the powerful film.
Participants were offered free refreshments and were introduced to the film by Joe Cunningham, a script consultant to Mpower Pictures, Santa Barbara for The Stoning script.
“I’m a film critic and student and have watched a lot of movies,” said Cunningham, “but this is the most powerful and hard to watch film I have ever seen.”
He went on to comment on the making of the picture and how he thought that it speaks eloquently as a witness to all the acts of injustice committed every day in the world and how this film should be watched to make audiences feel the need to help those around them experiencing social injustice of all kinds.

The film won People’s Choice at the Los Angeles Film Festival and Runner-Up (to Slumdog Millionaire) at Toronto.  It was banned from Iran before release.
“We think the film had a lot to do with the ban on stoning which was passed by the Iranian government short after Soraya’s debut,” Joe said, “But of course we can’t draw a direct line.”
The film is based on the best-selling book about the true story.
It is simply about what the title suggests: the true story of the events leading up to and immediately after.  That is why it remains a gripping film, rated R for “a disturbing sequence of cruel and brutal violence.”  However it remains, as the top critics call it:
  • “Riveting.”
  • “Emotionally explosive.”
  • “Magnificent.”
  • “Unforgettable.”

 “I’m so glad Steve didn’t listen to me,” said Joe, “I doubted the ability for it to succeed but the fact that it has already influenced so many for the cause of social justice is well worth it.”
It is co-written by Cyrus Nowareseth and his wife and directed by Cyrus Nowareseth, an American born in Iran, a talented Hollywood personality that has been handpicked by Steven Spielberg for projects.

The film was produced by Mpower Pictures, founded by producer Steve McEveety, producer of The Passion of the Christ and longtime producer of Mel Gibson’s films including Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, What Women Want, etc.

The film boasts a great performance by Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the ChristThe Thin Red LineThe Count of Monte CristoG.I. Jane, Déjà Vu) and a stellar female cast.  Steve McEveety said they were hoping for Oscar nominations for the female leads.  The aunt in the film is especially phenomenal.

The movie was later picked up by Lionsgate for release and was shown in select theaters unintentionally debuting during the political demonstrations in Iran which accounted for some of the picture’s attention.
“This is not entertainment,” commented Joe to the audience, “Like the great Spielberg film Schindler’s List or the Roman Polanski film The Pianist, it is an experience meant to move you towards knowing the truth and then act upon it.”

After the film there was a brief discussion and a little debate regarding the proper portrayal of Islam in the film from some Islamic viewers.

“One of the critiques of the media was a possible anti-Muslim interpretation,” answered Cunningham, “However, a closer look will reveal the film critiques the evil men acting dishonestly in the name of Islam, something that happens in many religions because of particularly evil men.”

“The righteous figures in the film,” says Joe, “are Muslims also.”

Father Daniel Brandenburg, a Catholic priest, was there to M.C. the discussion.

“Since the scandals of pedophilia in the Catholic priesthood, I walk down the street and hear all sorts of bad names,” said Brandenburg, “but God knows I’m living my priesthood before God as I should.  However there are cases in both religions that are a reality.”

“The film cautions us to prudence,” said Joe, “and to know history so as not to make the same mistakes, especially in regards to social justice.”

The special free showing was made possible by Mpower Pictures and Young Men’s Regnum Christi in Central New York.  Attendees received word about the event through emails, Facebook, and  Joe hopes for suggestions for another film showing, this time a little more light-hearted yet as profound an experience.

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