When Jon Stewart first announced he was taking time off to write and direct a feature film the expectation was for some kind of comedy. Sure it would probably be smart and most likely woven through with political or social commentary, but the main narrative would surely be something goofy. Happily that wasn’t what Stewart was interested in pursuing though and instead took up a far greater challenge.
Maziar Bahari is an Iranian-born journalist who was arrested in Tehran while covering the elections and subsequent riots for Newsweek. His jail time lasted several months and included both physical and emotional torture, and the story Stewart wanted to tell on film is the one Bahari told in his memoir, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.”
It’s an alternately engaging, terrifying and inspiring story, and while that’s enough of a reason to bring it to the screen Stewart had another motive as well. Clips of Bahari being interviewed on The Daily Show were used as evidence against him during his “trial” in Iran.
Check out the first trailer for Rosewater below.
The story’s power comes through in the trailer, helped no doubt by the always great (but frequently wasted) Gael Garcia Bernal, but it looks like Stewart is keeping it simple for his first time behind the camera. That’s probably smart. Still, the topic alone makes it a so-called prestige film so expect it to enter the end of year awards conversation sooner rather than later. I’m not one to discuss or really care about awards season, but I do think it would be a fun addition to the fun-loving “battle” between Stewart and Stephen Colbert when it comes to accolades (ie the Emmys).
A different conversation all together is already erupting in one of the internet’s more hilarious corners… YouTube comments. Long known for the intelligent debate, social awareness and insightful commentary that’s accidentally banned from the forum, the film’s trailer page features a fun back and forth about how the film is clearly an attack on Iran by Jewish interests. One very angry and astute commenter has “had enough with the bloody trailer showing Starbucks (jewish company) at the happy ending.. at the climax of the story when the main character gets his Hope and freedom back.” They’re on to you Stewart, they’re on to you.
The official synopsis is below.
Rosewater is based on The New York Times best-selling memoir “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival,” written by Maziar Bahari. The film marks the directorial debut of “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, and stars Gael García Bernal.
Rosewater follows the Tehran-born Bahari, a broadcast journalist with Canadian citizenship. In June 2009, Bahari returned to Iran to interview Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was the prime challenger to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Mousavi’s supporters rose up to protest Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration hours before the polls closed, Bahari endured personal risk by sending footage of the street riots to the BBC. Bahari was arrested by police, led by a man identifying himself only as “Rosewater,” who tortured and interrogated him over the next 118 days.
With Bahari’s wife leading an international campaign to have her husband freed, and Western media outlets keeping the story alive, Iranian authorities released Bahari on $300,000 bail and the promise he would act as a spy for the government.”
Rosewater spreads its glorious wings of freedom, hope and solitary dancing on November 7th, 2014.
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