Rosewater, a new drama based on the events surrounding journalist Maziar Bahari’s imprisonment in Iran, is a triumph for Jon Stewart, who wrote and directed the new film. The film weaves an intricate web of drama and comedy while leaving a poignant message regarding those who bear witness to controversial events. The film is being released tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 14.
At first glance, many critics are comparing Rosewater to Ben Affleck’s 2012 political thriller, Argo. It is important to distinguish the difference between the two. Rosewater is based on the 2009 Iranian presidential election and Argo is a dramatized account of the 1979 hostage crisis during the Iranian Revolution. With that said, both films convey a similar message of instability and injustice within the country, something that has not changed significantly since that revolution.
In Rosewater, Bahari is held for 118 days by the Iranian government, tortured and kept in solitary confinement, having been accused of being a western spy. The film does a superb job of expressing the idiocy of Bahari’s captors, exposing their irrational hatred and uncompromising paranoia for the United States. During his confinement, Bahari is subject to a psychological torture of sorts, though it did get physical as well. Rosewater is excellent in this regard as it shows the progression of his imprisonment without making the film drag as a result of shooting in the prison for too long.
Rosewater is truly a triumph for Jon Stewart since it is his directorial debut and a film he penned. Stewart shines in his new shoes and the film is incredibly powerful, especially when Stewart’s strong brand of comedy is tossed into the mix in the latter half of the film. Rosewater could easily be the first step in a long and potentially successful career in film if Stewart chooses to pursue it further.
Rosewater delivers on a few other important points as well. It utilized quite a bit of original footage and broadcast rather than recreating events, which actually made the message more powerful. It also does a fine job briefly giving context to the Iranian struggle with the United States, as Bahari’s captors remind him of the 1953 coup in which the CIA effectively eliminated a democratically elected leader in the country in favor of the Shah. History buffs will know that this action was later condemned more than it was praised, even decades later when previous Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed the severity of the United States’ negative involvement that ended up pushing the region in the wrong direction by repressing democracy. This context will hopefully help give American audiences a better understanding of where the Iranian paranoia for the United States comes from.
Rosewater is an absolute triumph for Jon Stewart and it is one of the better dramas of the season. It is absolutely worth seeing, and it stands tall with high integrity, attempting to convey to audiences the importance of witnesses involving themselves rather than being silenced. In the current political climate of the region, this film should prove even more impactful as the world’s eyes are drawn to journalists being wrongfully killed for bearing witness to Islamic State’s conflict.
Review By Brett Stewart