Matt Mazur interviews Shohreh Aghdashloo in PopMatters:
Editor’s note: This interview contains some minor film spoilers…
Based on French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam’s novel of the same name, the film will force audiences to confront, perhaps for the first time, what it really means to be a witness to this kind of outdated capital punishment that is almost exclusively inflicted upon women (beheading, burning and whipping are among the others). Kudos must be given to the filmmakers for even getting this kind of film made in the first place, as it is one that deals primarily with international women’s rights issues in a conscious-raising, politically-relevant way—not exactly a bankable topic, in Hollywood terms. On paper, the odds were definitely stacked against such a dangerous subject.
The depiction of Soraya’s violent death onscreen is eerily reminiscent of the recent public death of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman gunned down in the streets of Tehran who became a symbol for freedom the world over, when video of the moment of her death spread virally through media outlets and social networking almost instantaneously. The thought of someone dying in such a public, bloody way, surrounded by hatred, violence or fear hits a raw nerve. I didn’t want to be confronted with the disturbing imagery of Neda bleeding to death in the street either, but like Soraya, Neda is representative of something bigger that must be addressed. The images of Soraya’s and of Neda’s deaths are haunting, but they drive home a very specific, lasting point: the wrongful deaths of the innocent cannot be tolerated in Iran or anywhere else.
Soraya’s brave female lead Zahra breaks the cycle of violence and oppression in her village by having the courage to stand up for what she believes is right and by speaking the truth, even when her life is at stake.