Directed by Jon Stewart
Starring Gael García Bernal
In UK Cinemas May 8th, 2015

by Joanna Orland

America’s number one satirist Jon Stewart goes from talk show host to filmmaker with his debut feature Rosewater. Still focused on political material, Stewart tells the story of Maziar Bahari, the Iranian-born Newsweek reporter who was captured by the Iranian government and tried as a spy during the social unrest of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections.

Based on Bahari’s memoirs, Stewart’s adaptation uses humour amongst the drama to humanize both Bahari (Bernal) and his captor, never emanating preachiness in a film whose partial intention is to raise awareness of those who unjustly remain in captivity. Gael Garcia Bernal embodies the role of Bahari with a likability that even the real, articulate and friendly Bahari himself can’t compete with. Under Stewart’s direction, the character Bahari undergoes more of a transformation than what occurred in reality, Stewart himself explaining how the character needed to seem weaker at the start of the story in order to make the key moment when he raises his camera all the more dramatically effective.

With some of the character and narrative elements embellished to heighten drama, the humour of this film is based solely in truth. Even as things begin to seem hopeless to Bernal’s Bahari, it is hard for him to not find the situation ridiculous. A journalist is being accused of being a spy with the media in general being accused of existing as a newly instated espionage organization supporting the Zionist agenda. Footage of Bahari’s interview on The Daily Show, which was used as evidence against him in the reality, is recreated to emphasize the ludicrousy of these accusations. The Daily Show correspondent Rob Riggle claims to be a spy as he interviews Bahari about life in Iran, leading to the Iranian government accusing Bahari of meeting with a spy, which of course means he too must be a spy. Bernal’s Bahari is fighting a losing battle trying to explain the concept of satire to his Iranian captors.

While the 2009 Iranian presidential elections may not seem as current of an issue in present day with all that has happened in the Middle East since, this story is a reminder of just how much it is still relevant, how some of these people are still being held captive without trial, with more innocents joining them in captivity or losing their lives daily due to the oppression of a corrupt system.

Rosewater: Jon StewartJon Stewart

Rosewater: Maziar BahariMaziar Bahari

Rosewater: Amir El-MasryAmir El-Masry

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