RosewaterFebruary 2, 2015

Showings 4:30, 7:00 and 9:10pm

USA, 2014
103 minutes
Rated 14A

In 2009, Iranian Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari was covering Iran’s volatile elections for Newsweek. One of the few reporters living in the country with access to US media, he also appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in a taped interview with comedian Jason Jones. The interview was intended as satire, but if the Tehran authorities got the joke they didn’t like it — and that bit of comedy would come back to haunt Bahari when he was rousted from his family home and thrown into prison.

In a remarkable stroke, Stewart himself took up Bahari’s story. Making his directorial debut, the iconic media satirist crafts Rosewater as a chronicle of journalism in conflict with political power, seen through the prism of memory. Bahari’s interrogator wears a strong rosewater scent that immediately reminds him of his childhood. Isolated in prison, Bahari finds refuge in recollections of Leonard Cohen music and conversations with his politically engaged father.

Stewart’s skill in his long-running television show has been to champion ideals of democracy, transparency and freedom of expression by cracking jokes every time those ideals are compromised — which is daily. With Rosewater, he takes a more sincere approach. Although there are glimpses of his trademark wit, Stewart directs the film with emotion and dramatic engagement designed to reach the widest audience possible: the film is in English, with Gael García Bernal (No, The Motorcycle Diaries) turning in a potent, persuasive performance as Bahari and the great Iranian American actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Nativity Story) matching him as the journalist’s mother. Both brave and heartfelt, Rosewater illuminates the precarious position of journalists who risk their freedom and even their lives to tell the true stories of world-changing events.

The punishing ordeal of Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari — imprisoned for 118 days on charges of espionage — is brought to the screen with impressive tact and intelligence by writer-director Jon Stewart in Rosewater, an alternately somber and darkly funny drama.

—Scott Foundas, Variety


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