2015-03-27 16:08

What it's about:

Tehran-born Bahari, a journalist with Canadian citizenship, returned to Iran in 2009 to interview Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was the challenger to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Mousavi’s supporters protested Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration hours before the polls closed, Bahari endured personal risk by sending footage of the street riots to the BBC. Bahari was arrested by police, who were led by a man identifying himself as “Rosewater,” and tortured and interrogated over the next 118 days. With Bahari’s wife leading an international campaign to have her husband freed, and media outlets keeping the story alive, Iranian authorities released Bahari on bail and the promise he would act as a spy for the government.

What we thought:

Rosewater is a film adaptation of the memoir of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist that became famous when the Iranian government imprisoned him on grounds of espionage in 2009. Although political satirist Jon Stewart was the writer and director of the film, this film is anything but a satire, feeling more like a documentary than a film.

It also a personal film for Stewart. Part of the ‘evidence’ used against Bahari was a satirical interview he did on Stewart’s The Daily Show, and although serious, Stewart encapsulates the ridiculousness that is oppressive rule without diminishing its devastating impact on people’s lives. Raw and inspiring, Bahari’s experiences resonates with the incarceration of many journalists whose real crimes are just reporting the news.

One has to remember though this film is still an adaptation and makes assumptions about people other than Bahari, for example it insinuates the real reason for his imprisonment is his smuggling of riot footage to the BBC, but you don’t get the feeling of exaggeration. The prison where Bahari was held was not some hellhole with no hygiene or where they make you starve, and the interrogation was definitely more psychological than having your fingernails torn out. The interrogator himself, which Bahari nicknamed Rosewater because of his cologne, had a human face, coping with the circumstances he’s in. This lends credibility to the story, to Bahari and to Stewart, and the message that it purports. The story is not only about Bahari, but about countless others who have been imprisoned by regimes on questionable charges in order to impose censorship and discredit their work.

As for Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel, The Motorcycle Diaries), who plays Bahari, the man is an acting force that has this gentle strength in his performances. Not too well-known in the mainstream circuit, he has quite a name in the indie and Mexican circuit, but can hold his own as a lead. A subtle humour in his voice paired with an emotional intensity made him the perfect for Stewart’s interpretation of Bahari.

A must-see for journalists and anyone with a vested interest in media freedom, Rosewater is as entertaining as it is serious about what it hopes to achieve, which is to remind the world not to forget those who were not as lucky as Bahari and upheld media freedom above their own.

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