Review: Rosewater

Jon Stewart, soon-to-be-ex-host of The Daily Show, makes his impressive feature début as script adaptor, co-producer and director with this powerful drama drawn from Maziar Bahari’s book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity, And Survival, a project he possibly pushed into being to help relieve some guilt.

Jon Stewart, soon-to-be-ex-host of The Daily Show, makes his impressive feature début as script adaptor, co-producer and director with this powerful drama drawn from Maziar Bahari’s book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity, And Survival, a project he possibly pushed into being to help relieve some guilt. Filmed in Jordan, the film opens with the Iranian-Canadian journalist Bahari (Mexican actor Gael García Bernal) awoken by authorities who (with a touch of Kafka’s The Trial, although this really happened) label his Empire magazines and Tintin books pornography, scorn his Leonard Cohen record as music by a Jew, and publicly haul him away. It then flash backs to show how Bahari, who left his pregnant wife Paola (Claire Foy) in his London home to report upon the impending Iranian presidential election in 2009, had participated in a satirical sketch for The Daily Show in which he pretended to be a spy, and this was, of course, misconstrued as an actual admission by the Iranian authorities, who locked him up in Evin Prison for 118 days. And his brutal interrogator (Danish actor Kim Bodnia), who smelled of rosewater, never let up in his insistence that Bahari was a spy for the Americans, funded by Zionists and working with the CIA (labels the Iranian state TV have now flung at Stewart), and as Bahari fought to stay strong he flashed back to memories of his late activist dad and his deceased sister Maryam (the excellent Golshifteh Farahani, star of My Sweet Pepper Land). Featuring fine playing from Bernal and Bodnia, and striking mixing of real and recreated footage of the riots that transpired after the rigged election, Stewart’s film suggests that Bahari’s was a ‘show trial’ to stop him reporting on the civil unrest while also illustrating, yet again, that none of the world’s governments have a sense of humour. And isn’t it wonderful that here in Australia we don’t have politicians that try and control the media and that we don’t wrongfully imprison innocent people? Oh, wait, hang on…

Adelaide In-depth

Get the latest stories, insights and exclusive giveaways delivered straight to your inbox every week.