Rosewater (2014)

Rosewater (2014)
  • Time: 103 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama
  • Director: Jon Stewart
  • Cast: Gael García Bernal, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Golshifteh Farahani, Kim Bodnia, Dimitri Leonidas


Based of a true story about a journalist who gets detained and brutally interrogated in prison for 118 days. The journalist Maziar Bahari was blindfolded and interrogated for 4 months in Evin prison in Iran, while the only distinguishable feature about his captor is the distinct smell of rosewater. An interview and sketch that Maziar did with a journalist on The Daily show was used as evidence that Maziar was a spy and in communication with the American government and the CIA.


  • There are currently hundreds of journalists and thousands of blogger/activists imprisoned around the world for the crime of bearing witness. One such journalist, London-based Iranian Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal), spent 118 days in solitary confinement and subjected to interrogations, beatings, and threats to his mother and pregnant wife – a misfortune Bahari documented in Then They Came for Me, the basis for Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, Rosewater.

    The marriage between man and material is unsurprising given Stewart’s day job as The Daily Show host and satirist, but while the overall intent is to tell Bahari’s story – and, by extension, the story of all journalists who have shared the same experience – and offer a less generalised, more nuanced view of Iran, Rosewater is also Stewart’s self-confessed atonement for The Daily Show’s accidental part in Bahari’s imprisonment. The film takes place in 2009, during the run-up to the Iranian presidential election, which Bahari had been tasked to cover for Newsweek. Though there was a groundswell of support for opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, it was incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was declared the winner by a landslide. Reports of vote rigging triggered mass protests and demonstrations; the government warned its citizens that anyone taking to the streets will be held accountable for the resulting violence and bloodshed.

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  • In 2009, satirical news show The Daily Show conducted an interview with film-maker and journalist Maziar Bahari. Not long afterwards, Bahari was arrested for his connections with the west, the interview serving as just one of the pieces of evidence against him. After meeting with Bahari after his release, Daily Show host Jon Stewart was motivated to translate his story into a film, which became Rosewater.

    During the 2009 Iranian presidential election, Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal) sees the lack of confidence in the people for current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He’s interviewed by comedian Jason Jones (Himself) from The Daily Show in a harmless enough satirical interview, and after Ahmadinejad wins the election, Bahari films the protests that follow. Soon afterwards, Bahari is arrested by a man who smells distinctly of rosewater (Kim Bodnia). He is accused of communicating with American spies, and is incarcerated for 118 days in squalid conditions and under interrogation.

    The story behind Stewart’s directorial début is clearly very close to him. Bahari’s ordeal is presented through an insightful, and often witty screenplay, but Stewart shies away from too many dark themes.

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