Archbishop Chaput gives 'Stoning of Soraya' two thumbs up

The Stoning of Soraya M.
The Stoning of Soraya M.


As the movie industry prepares to roll out its summer blockbusters, a sobering film from Steve McEveety explores the gripping story of an Iranian woman who is victimized by her husband. After seeing the movie, Archbishop Charles Chaput gave it his seal of approval and said it should remind people "how vigilant over our own hearts each of us needs to remain if we want to be human."

"The Stoning of Soraya M." is the work of Steve McEveety, perhaps best known among Catholics for the movies "The Passion of the Christ" and "Braveheart." He also co-founded Mpower Pictures, which in 2007 released the extraordinary portrait of a young man’s conversion, "Bella."

This year, McEveety and his Mpower colleagues bring "The Stoning of Soraya M." ( to limited screens across the country on June 26.

After screening the film, Archbishop Chaput told Catholics, in his weekly column for the Denver Catholic Register, "Don't let the summer go by without somehow seeing this film."

"Superbly written, directed and photographed, with compelling lead performances by two astonishing actresses, The Stoning is the most moving screen story I’ve seen in years. Once you’ve watched it, you’ll never forget it," he wrote.

The movie is based on real events and is adapted from the book of the same name by the French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, played by Jim Caveziel, the archbishop explained. "In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, a husband grows tired of his young wife, who has borne him two sons and two daughters. Under Islamic law, a man may have up to four wives – but he’s also obligated to care and provide for each of them properly. Interested in a potential child bride and unable to afford the added expense of a second wife, the husband maneuvers his wife into tending house for a recent widower. Then he falsely accuses her of infidelity, after blackmailing other male village elders, including the mullah – the town’s religious leader -- into colluding in his lie."

"The rest of The Stoning needs to be experienced to be fully understood," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Chaput also addressed the claim that the movie could be seen as anti-Islamic.

"While The Stoning implicitly shows the deep differences between Christianity and Islam regarding the role of women, the film is not a critique of Islam. Quite the opposite: What happens to Soraya is an abuse of Islamic law fueled by revolutionary extremism, personal corruption and rural tradition."

Watching the film brought to the archbishop's mind the years he served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, during which he came to see "how unusual our nation really is."

"For all its flaws," the Denver prelate said, "the United States has a respect for religious freedom, equality under the law and the dignity of the individual that very few other societies can rival. We need to take pride in those qualities. We need to remember the moral and religious roots from which they come. We also need to protect those qualities and advance them without apology in our dialogue with other cultures."

Archbishop Chaput closed his review by noting that "The Stoning of Soraya M." succeeds because "it is a moving drama of abused innocence and eventual vindication."

"But it also reminds us of the soul-destroying power of a lie; how tempting and easy it can be to victimize the weak; how precious the truth is; and how vigilant over our own hearts each of us needs to remain if we want to be human -- even when we claim to believe in God."

The full review can be accessed here: