Bahá'í Girl's Martyrdom Story Set To Become a
Mel Gibson - Jack Lenz Co-Production Movie
©imdb & Icon Productions LLC & Photocomposition ©DK
Human Rights is a delicate issue that hardly needs dramatization to draw attention. It is something to which we can all relate to, regardless of our backgrounds, political opinions or convictions. What is certain is that the public at large is often uninformed on the predicament of people who are suppressed or victims to physical and psychological torture. Amnesty International has been striving for several decades now to inform the international community on such inhuman behavior towards prisoners of conscience be it for political, sexual or religious reasons. However it is worth noting that films, plays or documentaries can always help raise awareness on the sad reality of Human Rights Violations and channel public indignation towards constructive pro-active actions to change this reality rather than encouraging passive and impotent observations. According to Amnesty International Annual 2008 Report At least 1,252 people are known to have been executed in 24 countries in 2007. Just five countries - China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US - were responsible for 88% of known executions in the world, Amnesty said. About 3,347 people were sentenced to death in 51 nations last year and up to 27,500 people are now estimated to be on death row. Iran was second to China with 317 known executions during 2007, the report said, followed by Saudi Arabia on 143, Pakistan on 135 and the US on 42. Amnesty said the totals had risen alarmingly in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but that worldwide they showed a drop - down to 1,252 from 1,591 the previous year. The executions in Iran included the stoning to death of a man for adultery, and the execution of three people who were teenagers aged between 13 and 16 at the time of their arrests, it added( Source BBC Report). Amnesty International's Report confirms if needed that the situation regarding Human Rights has hardly progressed for our Iranian compatriots despite a revolution that promised both freedom and democracy to world acclaim only to be followed by a reign of Terror that has lasted for more than 30 years despite short periods of solace thanks to the end of the Iran Iraq War or the short lived political reforms undertook by former President Khatami. In such a context the true story of Mona Mahmudnizhad the courageous young Baha'i teacher who was martyred 1983 along with ten other Baha'i women in the Iranian city of Shiraz, seems like a particularly resounding echo of the painful reality of human rights violations in today's Iran. Due to Start Shooting in October/November 2008, the film entitled Mona's Dream, is a 10 $ Million project that has entered pre-production last May with the financial backing by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions film company.
New York Times Coverage of the Execution's back in 1983 ©NY Times
Genesis of the Film Project:
Canadian musician and composer, Jack Lenz, was asked to collaborate with Mel Gibson a few years ago on the musical score of the movie "The Passion of the Christ". Lenz spent more than a year traveling around the world and researching ancient instruments, cultures and their music to come up with an idea of what kind of music would be historically accurate and appropriate for Mel Gibson's magnum opus. It was widely expected that he would be named as composer for the movie but later on, Mel Gibson and his associates ended up naming John Debney to that role. Nevertheless, Lenz continued to work on the project and ended up contributing to many of the original titles and songs in the movie.
Late last year, Mel Gibson and the other producers of "The Passion of the Christ" met with Jack Lenz in Los Angeles. They wanted to communicate their appreciation for the hard work that he had put into the project and asked Lenz how they could return the favour. Jack Lenz replied that it had always been a lifelong dream of his to make an original motion picture about the martyrdom of Mona, a 17 year old Iranian Baha'i youth.
He then proceeded to tell Mel Gibson and his associates who were there, about Mona's story; how she had been taken away by Iranian authorities and interrogated; how she had been told that she would be, along with nine other women, summarily executed; how she had asked to be hung last so that she would be able to pray for the other women; and how she had met her death with serenity and strength, never wavering in her faith. Lenz also showed them a letter that Mona had written herself ...
©Jack Lenz & Icon Productions LLC & Photocomposition ©DK
According to a recent interview on VOA Persian Service the finished script was finally approved and shooting is supposed to start in Malta by early Fall 2008 and complete post-production is due in March 2009.
An International Cast:
An international Cast as Well as High Profile Iranian actors have committed to the project including:
Keisha Castle-Hughes (Oscar-nominated actress from 'Whale Rider', also in 'Star Wars Episode III)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (Oscar-nominated actress from 'House of Sand and Fog', also in '24′, 'Lake House' and 'X-Men: The Last Stand')
Nazanin Afshin-Jam (Singer/Songwriter and debuting as actress; International Human Rights Activist, and Miss World Canada and Miss World runner-up) as Tahirih.
Mona Mahmudnizhad (1965-June 18, 1983) was a Persian Bahá'í who, together with nine other Bahá'í women, was sentenced to death and hanged in Shiraz because of her membership to the Bahá'í Faith.
Mona Mahmudnizhad was arrested and charged for teaching Bahá'í school classes to children. The Iranian authorities tried to make Mahmudnizhad, and the other arrested Bahá'í women, recant their religious beliefs through torture. However, when the women did not recant they were sentenced to death. At the time of their sentencing, the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, as well as Human Rights Organizations made a plea for clemency, but the women were hanged on June 18, 1983.
Interestingly Shohreh Aghdashloo will be starring in another movie also concerning Human Rights in Iran and directed by Iranian American Cyrus Nowrasteh ( Path to 9/11) and based on the best selling book The Stoning of Soraya M by Fereydoun Sahebjam: the true story of an innocent 35-year-old woman who had been stoned to death for supposed infidelity in a remote Iranian village in 1986. The horrific account was to draw the attention of Human Rights organizations on the plight of Iranian Woman and the dark reality of Iran's judiciary.
Lets Hope that both movies will achieve their goals in faithfully portraying the tragic story of these victims and more importantly convince the international community and the Iranian judiciary on the necessity to put an end to such unjust and cruel treatments in Iran but also worldwide.
VIVE LE CINEMA !
LES DROITS DE L'HOMME !
Mona's Story is also the subject of a play by Mark Perry entitled A Dress for Mona
(*) Official Website of Mona's Dream
(**)Official Website Stop Child Executions
Jack Lenz Official Website
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About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is also contributes to OCPC Magazine in LA/US and to the London Based IC Publications The Middle East Magazine and Persian Heritage Magazine.
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