Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Rosewater": Jon Stewart's treatment of Bahari's book about his own experience as a journalist accused of spying in Iran

Rosewater”, written and directed by Jon Stewart, and based on the book “And Then They Came for Me”, takes us through the interrogation and imprisonment in Iran of Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal, as in “Bad Education”), which started eleven days after he arrived in Tehran from London to cover the June 2009 elections, in which Ahmadinejan defeated the possibly more progressive Mlousavi.
The film opens as police come to Bahari’s quarters, and accuse him of possessing pornography as they rummage through DVD’s of western movies and TV shows (like “The Sopranos’).  It then flashes back, and for forty minutes traces his days in Tehran, hiring a motorcycle driver and befriending young men in the local population.  He records a satirical skit about the election from a media comic, suggesting that the election was rigged, and provides it to the BBC, which is probably what leads Iranian authorities to accuse him of spying for the CIA.
More than half of the film presents him in prison, in solitary, blindfolded, sensing only the “rosewater” of his interrogator (Kim Bodnia) who keeps getting pressure from the higher-ups as Bahari is forced into public apologies and various confessions about cheating on his fiancé to get release, after getting international attention, including comments from Hillary Clinton. The prison scenes tend to limit the visual impact of the second half of the film. 

The rhetoric of the prison guards plays up the victimization of Iran and of Shiite Islam by the west, particularly the past support of the Shah, before the hostage crisis, and then personalizes the outrage by acting as if Maziar were somehow individually responsible for all of it.  The rhetoric makes a kind of bizarre sense as circular word salad, and nothing more.
The film seems to have impressive on location shots in Tehran.  I don’t know how they did it.
A Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian, has been held by Iran for over 100 days, story by Carol Morello, here.
The official Facebook site is here, for Open Road and Oddlot/ 

I saw the film late Sunday at the Angelica Mosaic in Merrifield, Va. Before a small audience. The theater provided free posters of the film.  
Wikipedia attribution link for Azadi Tower picture. 

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