As John Oliver held down “The Daily Show Show” last year, Jon Stewart was off making a movie called “Rosewater,”now out. It’s a “torn-from-the-headlines” story of Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was detained by Iranian authorities after the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, and later released under international pressure.
The film begins with Bahari leaving his pregnant wife in London for friends & family in Tehran to cover the election and expected victory of the reform candidate, but quickly takes a darker turn as the election is subverted and protests begin. Depicted in the film is the real-life event of Stewart, on “The Daily Show,” having Jason Jones conduct one his ironic interviews with Bahari, where joking reference is made to western spying. To put it mildly, the humour is lost on the Iranians… For about four months he is tortured “without leaving marks,” to quote one of the two regime drones, called specialists, sent to extract a confession. As the plot takes a turn for the worse, the gravitas of the film takes a turn for the better.
What Stewart is doing here is not that different from what he on his nightly show, with the obvious difference that the sending up murderous Islamofascists is a more dangerous game than the sending up Mitch McConnell. He shows the absurdity and disconnection from reality of the unquestioning and/or deceived who find themselves in positions of power. He succeeds so well you almost feel sorry Bahari’s tormenters….almost. Though Stewart had lots to do with the cult classic “The Aristocrats” a few years back, “Rosewater” stands as his feature-film debut. Given the skills shown, and performances drawn from the cast, it would seem that Stewart has a future in filmmaking if he wants one.