Jon Stewart’s first film as a director, “Rosewater,” opens in theaters on Friday. The film is based journalist Maziar Bahari’s book about his detention in Iran in 2009. Manhola Dargis wrote about the film on Thursday for The New York Times and includes this background.
This fictional movie tells the story of the real Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-born journalist living in London who was arrested in Iran while covering the 2009 elections for Newsweek. Accused of being an agent for foreign intelligence organizations, he was thrown into the Evin Prison, where he was interrogated and beaten, partly for the surreal reason that he had appeared on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”
Here’s the trailer:
Mike Pesca spoke with Bahari on Thursday for Slate’s The Gist podcast about appearing on The Daily Show and his arrest in Iran. Bahari was charged with spying for four different agencies, he told Pesca, including Newsweek.
“And I said, do you mean Newsweek magazine? They said, ‘Your quote unquote newsmagazine is part of the intelligence apparatus.’”
Stewart spoke with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about how he decided to make the film.
I think when you have a moment that is as focused as the one Maziar faced, then it really crystallizes what it is that your art form does. … We live in a country where satire is settled law — so we’re not fighting against the kinds of censorship and parameters that somebody like Maziar or somebody like my friend Bassem Youssef in Egypt would’ve been fighting against. That takes away one level of urgency from what you’re doing.
Zaki Hasan spoke with Stewart and Bahari for the Huffington Post in a story on Friday. Hasan asked both men about if social media was “a benefit or is it a burden?” Here’s part of Bahari’s response:
It’s definitely not a burden. I mean, I cannot imagine it to be a burden. Some people had some issues with Facebook and Twitter and…Google Plus was not around unfortunately at that time, that law enforcement agencies can get people’s information through Facebook or Twitter. But that’s not a big issue. People, they can do it through other means as well.
But I think social media — Twitter, Facebook — they are expediting ways, movement, this social movement, these non-violent resistance movements all around the world, not only in Iran. It actually started maybe in Iran. For the first time, social media played a role in a movement but since then we have seen it in Arab Spring, in different countries, Tunisia, Egypt, and also Syria and Libya. We saw it in Hong Kong, we saw it in Ukraine because social media is about information. It’s about sharing information, sharing data.
And sharing information and sharing data is a democratizing factor. And for these authoritarian states or these dictatorships, it’s a scary phenomena.
Meanwhile, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian is being held in Tehran. Carol Morello wrote about Rezaian’s 100th day in jail last month.
“It is inexplicable and utterly unacceptable that Jason Rezaian, the Post’s Tehran correspondent, remains in Iranian custody,” said Douglas Jehl, The Post’s foreign editor. “After 100 days, the time is long overdue for the Iranian authorities to release Jason and to allow him to be reunited with his family.”