Rosewater ★★★½

"Wake up. These men want to talk with you."

Comedian Jon Stewart's only directing, producing, or writing credit, the 2014 political thriller Rosewater is still worth watching for a look at the account of journalist Maziar Bahari's imprisonment by Iranian officials after, of all things, an appearance on The Daily Show. It's a story about an oppressive dictatorship, but also about misconceptions and overreactions to free speech and political discord.

The movie is far from a comedy, but at the same time you can't help but laugh a little at the situation Bahari (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) was placed in, because of Iran's belief that his job was part of a larger plot against the country and that he was working with a spy. After a satirical interview with Jason Jones (who plays himself), and an apparent support of the electoral opponent of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bahari is assumed an enemy of the state.

So, you could make the argument that this is a subtle dark comedy, based on the absurd Kafkaesque interrogation that most anyone would qualify as torture, for almost 4 months. Blindfolded constantly, Stewart uses the experiences in the memoir to create a similar feeling of anxiety and tension in a confusing and fearful scenario.

In the first portion of the film, as well, he reminds audiences of the contested 2009 election, and the brief moment that it seemed like democracy may win out over theocratic authoritarianism. Instead, quickly the regime clamps down power, and Bahari's life seems in jeopardy after he is jailed.

A faithful adaption of a memoir, while its message isn't very nuanced it's still a good one. You have to be impressed with Jon Stewart's first -- and so far only -- film to his name. He helps make a good story even more riveting with thoughtful and confident direction.

🐱Andrew liked these reviews