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donna g's TIFF 08 Coverage: Day 5 a.k.a What's in a Face?

Iranian actress, Shohreh Aghdashloo in THE STONING OF SORAYA M.

Bahamian actress, Renel Naomi Brown in RAIN

I didn't plan on seeing The Stoning of Soraya M, but circumstances were such that I found myself at a press screening for the film this afternoon. I promised myself that I would leave if it got too heavy for me to bear. I have known and still know women in abusive situations so guaged my emotional response to the level of violence on the screen--any sensory overload and I would be out of there! Well, it just so happened that I became captivated by Shohreh Aghdashloo. Seeing her on screen reminded me of my one of my favourite actresses, Anna Magnani. The pain in her eyes and the strength of her character drew me in. We know from the beginning that she is Zahra, Soraya's aunt, a woman who remains undefeated despite her suffering. Zahra has the courage to share with a visiting journalist, the story of Soraya, how her virtuous niece was plotted against by a husband who wanted her dead so he could marry a rich girl (death being cheaper for him than a divorce settlement).

The Stoning of Soraya M is set in Iran, and the political climate of the post-Shah era plays an integral role in the film, but this is also about how evil can grow among a group of people to the point that they believe lies, and focus on self-preservation rather than the preservation of truth and human dignity. The stoning scene, when it occurs near the end of the film, is horrific (I had to close my eyes), but the scene that follows is a one of iconic triumph: through Zahra's recorded voice, the world will now know of Soraya's existence and murder. The Stoning of Soraya M is a dramatization of a true story.

While there are no scenes of horror on a grand scale in RAIN, there are scenes of how hard life can be in the Bahamas. This coming of age film introduces us to the face of Renel Naomi Brown. Her luminous, soulful eyes are as captivating as the experienced expressions of Shohreh Aghdashloo. Considering this is her first film, Renel Brown does an amazing job of expressing Rain's emotions through her eyes.

Moving from the loving home of her grandmother (following her death), Rain ends up in Nassau, more specifically a place called "the graveyard". As one character in the film says, "no one gets out of a grave." Well, Rain is determined to not live the life of the crack addicted mother (Nicki Micheaux) she has not seen since she was a baby. With the help of a school coach (CCH Pounder), Rain begins to take steps to improve her life.

Wednesday September 10 02:45PM AMC 9
Friday September 12 09:15PM AMC 1

Saturday September 13 12:15PM AMC 9


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