A preview of Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater”

By: Allison Wisyanski ~Staff Writer~

Jon Stewart’s debut feature, “Rosewater,” held a premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in
September 2014. “Rosewater” tells the true story of Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari’s five month imprisonment in Iran after his appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Stewart traveled to Jordan for a month in the summer of 2013 to film the movie.

In 2009, Bahari covered Iran’s unpredictable elections for Newsweek. During his stay in Tehran, Iran, he interviewed a young regime reporter and raised the possibility of election fraud. He also appeared on Stewart’s show with comedian Jason Jones.

then they came for me - aimeemolloy dot com
The memoir which inspired the film

While on the show, he discussed Iran’s presidential elections. The interview was supposed to be satire, but the Tehran authorities did not find it comical. Authorities eventually threw Bahari into prison for that bit of comedy on the show.

After Bahari’s experience, he wrote a memoir entitled “Then They Came For Me,” which highlighted his experiences, specifically being tortured and interrogated for 118 days in an Iranian prison during the 2009 elections. Bahari brought his story to Stewart who decided to adapt the book as a film, thus making his directional debut. He crafted “Rosewater” as a “chronicle of journalism in conflict with political power, seen through the prism of memory.”

The memory in the movie is tied with Bahari’s interrogator, who wears a strong rosewater scent and triggers his childhood memories. While isolated in prison, he “finds refuge in recollections of Leonard Cohen music and conversations with his politically engaged father.” Although Stewart is known for his comedic career, hetakes on “Rosewater” with a much more serious approach.

He directs the film with “emotion and dramatic engagement” and designs it to appeal to a widearray of people. Stewart does attempt to insert some comedy into the film, even though it mostly deals with Bahari’s despair. There is a moment in one scene where Bahari is told he’s to be shot, but that he can have a Nescafé.

The reaction to the film was mostly positive, with many journalists giving Stewart “kudos for weaving Bahari’s absurdist charm into a story so filled with despair.” BBC’s Owen Gleiberman tweeted, “Jon Stewart’s ‘Rosewater’ is one of the best dramas about the post-9/11 world ever made.”

“Rosewater” is set to begin a limited release on Nov. 7.

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