'Rosewater' celebrates the triumph of the human spirit
PHOTO BY BUSBOY PRODUCTIONS
Where is it playing?: The Palm
What's it rated?: R
What's it worth?: $8.00
What's it worth?: $8.00
Writer-director Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) adapts Maziar Bahari’s book about his 118-day detention and brutal interrogation by Iranian forces while working as an Iranian-Canadian journalist. Maziar, played by Gael García Bernal, was purportedly detained because of an interview he did on The Daily Show, which Iranians believed proved he was a spy. (103 min.)
Glen: There’s a lot of acrimony and recrimination in American politics, and many people argue our two-party system is really two faces of one coin, or that we’re more of an oligarchy than a democracy, but a film like Rosewater helps put those accusations in perspective. This story of detention in a repressive theocratic regime would be harrowing if it weren’t so sadly human. Journalist Maziar Bahari does what any person would do under torture: He tells his captors what they want to hear, he lies, and he survives. What makes the film so entertaining, if that’s the right word, is watching his journey. The despair, suicidal thoughts, coping, and ultimate understanding that freedom lies within the mind and that he’s freer than his captors makes for a soaring emotional triumph. Say what you will about our dysfunctional political system … because you can and you won’t be jailed and tortured. Thanks, First Amendment!
Anna: I thought that this was a really interesting peek into the world of politics and journalism, and how the two interact. Bahari is a dedicated journalist, willing to put himself into difficult and sometimes-dangerous situations to get the story, get the footage, and get it out there. But we also see that this is where his mother is, where his father died, and his sister fought. He’s a loving husband, a soon-to-be father, and a man who desperately wants to go home. He’s honest, and it does him no favors with his “specialist” (Kim Bodnia) who wants a confession, and wants it for selfish reasons. At what point would I sacrifice my dignity and lie, say I was a spy when I never was? How far can you be pushed before that wall starts to quake and crumble, and would you compromise yourself to be free? These are questions that were running through my head as I watched this film. It was a lonely, cold, and frightening world he was living in, and the saving grace was seeing him in the beginning of the film, doing what he loved and documenting it for others to see.
Glen: All those intersecting plotlines add to Bahari’s inner monologue, populated in his cell by the manifestation of his father (Haluk Bilginer), himself imprisoned and tortured under the U.S.-backed but eventually overthrown Shah of Iran. Bahari wrestles with his father’s imagined admonishments and encouragements to remain strong and be true to his ideals. He remembers visiting his sister (Golshifteh Farahani) in prison as a child, where he was blindfolded while he waited—a reoccurring theme that leads to one of several moments of humor in this otherwise somber and sobering film. He thinks of his mother (Shohreh Aghdashloo), his wife (Claire Foy), and his unborn child. He also thinks of the people he reported on, fighting for real democracy in Iran, real freedom, men now imprisoned like him, but without the international community crying for their release. It’s a terrible world depicted, but I think what I like best about the story is its message that freedom will always win. Near the end of the film, Iranian forces are destroying TV satellite dishes—the people’s banned connection to the outside world—and a young boy lifts his cell phone camera and begins recording. The truth will win out.
Anna: I loved the relationships that were made in the first third of the film. The taxi driver (Dimitri Leonidas) he asked to take him around town, the men he met who were so ready for revolution, they made us see where the heart was in that fight. I remember seeing those protests on TV and being utterly amazed. This was a film with heart, and with deep respect for the story behind it.
Split Screen is written by New Times staff writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.