It shouldn’t be surprising to find that someone known for delivering fake news can excel at the real thing, which is exactly what The Daily Show host Jon Stewart has done in his impressive film debut as both director and screenwriter.
Adapting the memoir of Newsweek Magazine journalist Maziar Bahari, Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival, Stewart expertly reveals the harrowing experience of Bahari, arrested in Iran for bearing witness to political upheaval.
Like many journalists around the world, Bahari was detained and charged with being a spy after filming the unrest in Iran that followed the questionable outcome of the 2009 election. Bahari would spend around 118 days in Evin prison, blindfolded and interrogated until international pressure would eventually aid in his release. During his time in the prison, a mock interview he had done with The Daily Show would be used against him as evidence.
It’s a terrifying tale, knowing this kind of thing still happens, yet the use of humour is abundant throughout, not making this a comedy but honouring the survival skills of the prisoner under such extreme circumstances.
Unable to see his interrogator, Javadi (Kim Bodnia), he nicknames him Rosewater because of his scent which reminds Bahari of his youth, growing up in Iran. Javidi is a complex character done full justice by Bodnia’s stellar performance. He’s a man true to his beliefs and determined to crack his prisoner, yet one who can display genuine concern, frustration, and at times, just be a man in need himself.
While the focus of the action is on Bahari, the background story gives due credit to his wife Moloojoon (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who brought his plight to international attention.
Neither an action flick nor a simple drama, Rosewater is a compelling psychological thriller, spoken in English. It’s based on a true story that is still repeating itself today for countless other journalists. While Bahari’s experiences were harrowing, Stewart ensures the experience is not so traumatic for the viewer. Like a well versed conductor, he weaves his tale with all the tension and trauma without ever stooping to gratuitous violence or horror.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Rosewater will be released on DVD and Digital on 24 June 2015.