New Film by local director and writer Explores Sharia Law

Film explores Sept. 11 miniseries
Camarillo filmmaker feels vindicated by new documentary

By Mark Storer Correspondent
Monday, February 9, 2009
Cyrus Nowrasteh feels vindicated.

It’s the word he uses when he talks about a new documentary by John Ziegler, “Blocking the Path to 9/11,” available at some Blockbuster stores, Netflix and “I’m thrilled that it’s out there and exists,” Nowrasteh said. “I don’t have to write a book now.”

Nowrasteh, a 52-year-old filmmaker and Camarillo resident, husband and father of two adult sons, wrote and produced the ABC miniseries “The Path to 9/11,” which aired in September 2006. The controversy was immediate and jarring to Nowrasteh.

ABC and parent company Disney reportedly yielded to pressure from former President Bill Clinton and others to edit parts of the miniseries, which dramatized the events leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was critical of the Clinton administration’s efforts to capture Osama bin Laden. The new movie explores the controversy over the miniseries.

Nowrasteh said Clinton was simply not telling the truth about his film and the events that led up to 9/11 and was essentially quashing the First Amendment rights of the filmmakers. Nowrasteh and his family even received death threats because of the film, he said.

“The film was originally intended to be shown every September,” Nowrasteh said. “But they just want it to go away now.” The film has not been released for the DVD market and there are no plans by Disney to do so, he said.

But if the controversy caused its share of problems, it also brought more attention to Nowrasteh, already an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker. With that attention, he’s pursued more projects, one of which is a film set to be released this summer. “Frankly, I think it’s done nothing but good for me,” he said.

Together with his wife, Betsy, 55, also a screenwriter, Nowrasteh wrote and directed “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” a film based on a book of the same name by journalist Freidoune Sahebjam.

“It’s a very powerful and tough story about a young woman who is stoned to death in Iran,” said Nowrasteh, himself of Iranian descent. The woman is stoned because her husband claims falsely that she was unfaithful, and under Sharia law, the punishment for the crime is death.

The film stars James Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Caviezel plays journalist Sahebjam, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, nominated for an Oscar for “House of Sand and Fog,” plays Zahra, the accused woman’s aunt.

“We sold out all five performances at the Toronto Film Festival,” Nowrasteh said. “Pretty good for a film about Iranian characters and in subtitles.”

The film will be released this summer in independent theaters.

Betsy Nowrasteh co-wrote the film with him. “People in this country don’t understand Sharia law,” she said. “They don’t understand that its principal victims are women and children.”