Note: Part 1 of this 2 part interview can be found here.
The execution scene at the heart of “The Stoning of Soraya M.
“ is all force and little subtlety. Some audiences might flinch at the visuals, while others may draw parallels to the violence at the core of “The Passion of the Christ.”
But director/co-screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh says a version of the film featuring a shortened stoning sequence didn’t test as well as the full-length movie.
“This movie is a ticking clock to an execution. That execution is a primitive rite we’re witnessing, and we need to go through each stage of it,” he says. ”It’s almost a catharsis.”
Not all audiences are ready to take the journey.
He says about five or so people typically leave the theater during test screenings once the execution starts - but roughly half return to watch the film's finale.
Nowrasteh, who is of Iranian heritage, has been watching the news reports coming out of Iran in recent days as intensely as any viewer.
“The people inside who are twittering and communicating are doing an incredible job,” he says.
He understands the complex position President Barack Obama faces regarding the ongoing protests. If he had the president’s ear he’d advocate no direct action - for now.
“He can exert some moral influence and I think he can be a little more forceful. He’s a little too standoff-ish,” he says.
But if more violence breaks out, and more protesters die, then President Obama will look bad if he continues to deal with the current regime, he says.
“You can’t legitimize this kind of repression,” he says.
Nowrasteh may face opposition from advocates of Islam when "Stoning" hits theaters June 26, but the filmmaker is no stranger to controversy. He wrote the ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11," a project critical of President Bill Clinton's policies toward terrorism.
The filmmaker says there's nothing new to report on a possible DVD release of the 2006 miniseries. And he blames Bob Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, for the miniseries remaining in creative limbo. Iger has supported the Clintons in the past, and critics contend that connection is the reason for the ABC film remaining on the shelf.
"As long as Bob Iger is running the company, they won't release the DVD," he says.
Christian Toto is a contributing reporter for The Washington Times, MovieMaker Magazine and boxoffice.com. He blogs about film at whatwouldtotowatch.com and at The Denver Examiner.