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Friday, June 16, 2017

Rosewater (2014)

This movie, which is based on a book about a journalist who was detained in Iran after a contested election, is exactly the sort of story that Jon Stewart would have highlighted when he was the host of the Daily Show.  He took a leave from the Daily Show in order to write and direct the movie.
Maziar Bahari was a journalist and filmmaker who returned to his native Iran in 2009 in anticipation of upcoming elections.  The hard-line sitting president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is opposed by  his popular reformist challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.  As Bahari sees, Mousavi has strong support among young, educated and urban Iranians, while Ahmadinejad, in addition to appealing more to the poor and unlettered, has bolstered his support with massive government hand-outs. Though Mousavi has been leading in the polls, there are ominous signs on several fronts, and he loses in a tainted election.
While he’s covering the election before being arrested, Bahari (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) gives an interview to one of Stewart’s colleagues in which he jokes about being a spy.  After violence erupts after the election, Bahari is arrested.   Later, in prison, he will try to explain to his brutal interrogator, a man he nicknames Rosewater for the cologne he wears, that this was all a joke and "The Daily Show" is satire, not news.
The concept of spy talk being offered up for laughs, though, is obviously one that Rosewater can’t grasp. And no wonder: it’s entirely outside the frame of reference of a pious torturer whose life is dedicated to the defense of Iran’s theocracy and its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. In one sense, the two mindsets we see colliding in that interrogation room–one medieval, one modern–form the crux not only of “Rosewater”s drama, but also of Iran’s ongoing struggle over its identity and place in the world.

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