Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Stoning of Soraya M (2008, dir: Cyrus Nowrasteh)

The Stoning of Soraya M 2008, with Mozhan Marno as Soraya

This film is a moving, culturally accurate presentation, with a great contribution by Parviz Sayyad in an unexpected variant of his old Samad persona from his long prerevolutionary career as an actor in Iran. This film is based on a true story, so I can't quarrel with the plot, but I do hate the implication that this is the story of an "unjust" stoning, since the woman who was stoned did not really do what she was accused of doing and for which she was brutally tortured to death. What I hate is the insidious implication that there might be a "just" stoning somewhere.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Land of Plenty (2004, dir: Wim Wenders)

Land of Plenty 2004 directed by Wim Wenders, German poster

Mr. Wenders made this film in a 16-day period on a very low budget while he was in a period of limbo during the making of Don't Come Knocking. His skill expressing his emotions with such a powerful work on such short notice is remarkable. Like a lot of other people though, the thrust of his initial emotions was anger--not at the Muslims who attacked America, but at Americans for their "exaggerated patriotism."

However, there is a gaping hole in the very quick treatment of 911 in this film. That hole is the point of view of the attackers. What were the Muslim religious motivations for the 911 attack? Lana, as a complete outsider, simply reports the celebrating Palestinians with a poignant "they hate us." For a lot of self-loathing Americans, this might be enough, but I felt cheated.

In his DVD commentary Wenders notes his Christian sensibilities. For me, the sprit of Christian forgiveness, love for mankind and turning the other cheek has a lot more meaning if it can be convincingly expressed with a full awareness of the driving force behind an evil act. Wenders shows no awareness of that. The word Muslim is not used in the film, although the story is obviously about American hostility to Muslims and about a journey John Diehl's character Paul makes from initial hostility to greatly improved awareness catalyzed by his dealings with his well-traveled neice Lana (Michelle Williams) and the Pakistani Hassan (Shaun Toub).

A Wenders film that explores this material more thoughtfully--with the courage to use accurate language--would be welcome should Mr. Wenders ever find himself moved to go in that direction. I doubt if he would tell a story that would match my views, but it would be nice to see more directness and honesty from a man who is too great for this kind of timid innuendo.

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