‘Rosewater’ Quenches Curiosity

Stepping out of the comedy world and into the cinematic world, Jon Stewart debuted as a first-time director for the film, “Rosewater” last week.

Adapted from the memoir of Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival,” the movie follows the journey of Bahari (Gael García Bernal) through his coverage of the 2009 Iranian Presidential elections, his subsequent prison time and the scent of rosewater that laced Bahari’s “specialist.”

In 2009, Bahari, at the time living with his expecting wife in London, travelled to Tehran, Iran to cover the Presidential election between incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Despite Bahari’s conversations and the nations overwhelming support for Mousavi, Ahmadenijad emerged victorious.

Courtesy of Odd Lot Entertainment

Courtesy of Odd Lot Entertainment

Accusations of voting fraud became rampant after the elections and Iranians took the street demanding for their votes back. All the while, Bahari filmed, and by nature, exposed the protests and brutality after the election.

While staying at his mother’s house, members of the Revolutionary Guard search his house and arrest for being a “Western spy.” He is then transferred to Evin Prison, the “Abu Ghraib” of Iran.

Up until this part of the film, I was cringing at the fact that the movie did not elicit the same emotions I felt while reading the memoir and was filled with rather standard, superficial scenes.

However, the second half of the film picks up from the very mediocre first half, which climaxes with Bahari using his personal relationships, humor and memories to bear the 115 days of solitary confinement.

The integration of Iranian culture into the movie, despite the presence of several non-Iranian actors was wonderful. I didn’t know many of them were non-Iranian until my research after the movie.

However, one big issue I had with the film was that the majority of the film was in English. Many of the conversations Bahari had with people while he was in Iran took place in Farsi, while the film was predominantly in English.

I believe that with language carries extra meaning, emotions and context; there were many scenes that I felt to be lost in translation.

Naturally, the memoir lent itself to a more emotional experience, as was to be expected. Translating such a moving and personal experience into a film is an uphill battle. As an extension of the memoir, “Rosewater” left much to be desired.

However, separating the film from the memoir, the film appropriately sprinkled humor and fed off Bahari’s nostalgia during his difficult encounters in Erin to deconstruct the antagonistic view of Iran seen in other American media.

It pulled out the more subtle details about Iranian society as a whole from the memoir. From the phone conversations of the interrogator with his wife, to the juxtaposition of his cab driver’s affinity for alcohol and his subsequent prayers, the movie touched on Iranian society in a complex way that challenged misconceptions of the people trying to live in Iran.

It paid tribute not only to Bahari’s struggle, but the struggle of Iranians, journalists and youth who seek to live within the realms of repressive systems.

 

ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You haven’t read the memoir and can appreciate a deconstructed understanding of the Iranian government.