Jon Ste­wart’s pri­son-cell show

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

ROSE­WA­TER Di­rected by Jon Ste­wart. Star­ring Gael Gar­cía Bernal, Kim Bod­nia. 15A cert, limited re­lease, 103 min In June 2009, Maziar Ba­hari, a Lon­don-based, Canadian-Ira­nian jour­nal­ist and doc­u­men­tar­ian, was among hun­dreds of peo­ple ar­rested in the wake of the con­tested Ira­nian pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Ba­hari was held and forcibly in­ter­ro­gated for 118 days in Tehran’s Evin Pri­son.

Shortly be­fore he was ar­rested, Ba­hari had filmed a tongue-in-cheek in­ter­view with The Daily Show’s Ja­son Jones. That in­ter­view be­came a stick­ing point for his in­ter­roga­tor, who de­cided that Jones was an Amer­i­can spy.

Ba­hari’s or­deal was chron­i­cled in the 2011 mem­oir, Then They Came for Me: A Fam­ily’s Story of Love, Cap­tiv­ity, and Sur­vival. It was sub­se­quently adapted for the screen and di­rected by The Daily Show’s Jon Ste­wart. The re­sult is Rose­wa­ter, an ex­pen­sive ($5 mil­lion-$10 mil­lion), if heart­felt, apol­ogy.

So far, so wor­thy. Hell, the film even stars that celebrity good-guy and bleed­ing heart, Gael Gar­cía Bernal, as Maziar. But by fo­cus­ing al­most en­tirely on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Maziar and his in­ter­roga­tor, Ste­wart soon mines dry hu­mour from Stock­holm Syn- drome and in­creas­ingly wild al­le­ga­tions. Bru­tal­ity is played down, hu­man­ity is trum­peted.

Else­where, the first-time film-maker finds in­ter­est­ing things to do with Ba­hari’s fam­ily his­tory: mem­o­ries are pro­jected onto shop fronts as the pro­tag­o­nist strolls down the street, and fam­ily mem­bers are con­jured as com­pan­ions as he strug­gles with four months of iso­la­tion.

We break from Bernal and Bod­nia’s ex­cel­lent two-step to a wider world where hash­tags float across the screen and news re­ports pro­vide con­text. Never mind the haters: Ste­wart is out to cel­e­brate the demo­cratic po­ten­tial of the in­ter­net age.

There’s an in­ter­est­ing con­trast here be­tween this tightly fo­cused, in­ti­mate pic­ture and Ba­hari’s own films (in­clud­ing To Light a Can­dle, a doc­u­men­tary about the per­se­cu­tion of Bahá’ís in Iran), which are characterised by a broader view. But there’s plenty to be gleaned from Maziar’s small pri­son cell.

Tehran slam­mer: Gael Gar­cía Bernal in Rose­wa­ter

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.