12114-div-rosewater

This film is based on a true story and marks the directorial debut of funnyman and The Daily Show host Jon Stewart. The reasons for Stewart's career shift seem apparent when it becomes clear that an appearance by Maziar Bahari, the subject of the film, on Stewart's late night talk show may have unwittingly triggered the events that followed. The story seems to be as much a tribute to Bahari's triumph of spirit as a mea culpa from Stewart.

Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) is arrested in Iran, accused of spying, while covering the 2009 elections. Bahari is suspected after the Daily Show stunt where he interviewed a "spy" for comic effect; the more likely reason was Bahari's filming of demonstrations protesting government corruption. Bahari spends 118 days captive, enduring intense physical and psychological torture. Blindfolded much of the time, he only recognizes his interrogator, (Kim Bodnia) by his scent of rosewater.

The film is based on Bahari's memoir and thus no spoiler alert needed for how it all turns out. Bernal's performance is captivating and Stewart's direction is adequate. The overriding message of the film is the need for free press--a somewhat academic end to a very human experience. That, combined with the obvious lack of suspense, make for an interesting, if lukewarm, film. It's a 6.