rosewaterRosewater, directed by Jon Stewart (who also wrote the screenplay) presents the real-life story of Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari. Bahari wrote the book that Stewart based the screenplay on. The story that’s told is of how Bahari was accused of being a spy and was detained by Iranian forces that interrogated him, tortured him, and threatened him after an appearance he made on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I regularly watched The Daily Show and saw the episodes of the show as his story unfolded.

It all started with a segment on the show hosted by Jason Jones as he grilled Bahari (jokingly, of course) about being a spy. The segment was obviously a joke to everyone that saw it; well, almost everyone with the exception of the Iranian government who weren’t in on the joke and who apparently have zero sense of humor. After his appearance on the show, Bahari was arrested at his mother’s home as he was visiting Iran working as a writer for Newsweek. Interestingly, the Iranian government considered Newsweek to be a propaganda tool (can’t really argue that too much) and Bahari a threat since he worked for them.

The film mostly covers Bahari’s time when he was detained as well as the events that led to his detainment and what he had to do to finally be released. Bahari had a pregnant wife that lived in NY that had to suffer through this ordeal as did his mother and the rest of his family and friends. Speaking of which, his loved ones started campaigns for his release and his wife spoke very publicly about the unfairness of his situation, much to the chagrin of the Iranian government who at one point tried to force Bahari to try to “control” his wife’s commentary to the public.

After 5 months of being incarcerated, beaten and tortured, Bahari was finally released. Soon after, he found himself back on The Daily Show with a completely shocked Jon Stewart whose show inadvertently led to this incredible situation in the first place.

This film was tragically overlooked in the theaters. It’s compelling, well written and directed, Stewart’s style includes some high-tech moments that illustrate Twitter’s importance to the process of Bahari being released adding a nice extra slick layer to the production. The actors are great too, Gael Garcia Bernal plays the lead as Bahari with passion and intelligence alongside some engrossing performances by Kim Bodnia, Haluk Bilginer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Claire Foy.

Rosewater is on Netflix and it’s worth your time.

reviewed by Sean McKnight