By Gary Murray

Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Kim Bodnia and Dimitri Leonidas

Written and directed by Jon Stewart

Running time 103 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Cable


Though not well known, Jon Stewart is much more than a comedian.  The lead anchor of The Daily Show on Comedy Central has been a producer of a cavalcade of different programs over the years.  But, like every other producer, he wants to direct feature films.  His first attempt is Rosewater

The story is of journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael Garcia Bernal).  Living in England, he has been following the elections in Iran.  When offered the job to cover the elections in his home country, he is hesitant.  His wife is pregnant and Iran has become a dangerous place. 

The government has become a militaristic state and freedom of the press is a risky venture.  But, the assignment draws at his nature of truth and justice.  When covering the government side, Maziar is protected.  But when confronted by some locals who ask him if he wants to cover the other side, his curiosity gets the better of him.  Eventually, he follows the story to a different part of town. 

Maziar sees the satellite dishes on the roof of a building and knows that the people are getting news from other sources than the state television.  This is a dangerous precedence in a country that suppresses free speech.  Maziar also is interviewed by a correspondent from The Daily Show and he jokingly admits that he is a spy.  Eventually, the segment plays to a world-wide audience. 

Maziar also captures some images of the revolution that should not have been captured.   It shows the violence of the protests.  Once these get on the air, he is accused of being a real spy.  He is taken into custody and that is when the film goes into mockery overdrive.   

Parts of the film play as if the entire work is a farce, with absurdist tendencies of culture confusion.  The interrogators do not understand that being a spy could be something to joke about and Maziar thinks that things like this could not happen in the 21st century.   Everyone has a competing agenda and eventually they all go down the rabbit hole of crazed thoughts.

The more the film ran, the more I kept thinking that this film is an apology by Jon Stewart to Maziar Bahari.  If it wasn’t for his The Daily Show shtick, none of this would have happened.  Jon and the crew almost got the man killed and all for a comedy show.   While it seems like a crazy idea, it is also the truth. 

But as a director, Jon Stewart shows some promise.    He finds the right balance between extremes between a man captured and his captor who smells of rosewater.  Much of the work takes place in a single room and the confines of space never challenge the direction or the actors. 

Rosewater is an interesting film but not a great film.  It has elements that are hard to believe that they could still happen in the real world.  But it has been said more than one that truth is stranger than fiction. 



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