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ROSEWATER

SYNOPSIS: During the tumultuous and controversial 2009 elections, Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) is detained by Iranian forces who brutally interrogate him for several months under suspicion that he is a spy. (Based on a true story)

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although it's no comedy, TV satirist Jon Stewart's debut feature does have moments of humour, all of them at the expense of the Iranian interrogators, notably the rosewater-spraying 'interrogation specialist' Javadi, superbly played by Charles Dance look-alike Kim Bodnia. The rosewater reference links Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) to his childhood memories of attending the mosque amidst the smell of sweat and rosewater sprinkled on the faithful.

The framework of the situation is familiar enough: authoritarian regime arrests journalist on charges of spying and tries to extract a confession to show (in this case) Iranians and the world how the Western manipulators are subverting god-fearing, peace-loving (in this case) Iran. The absurdities begin when Bahari is arrested and his belongings searched; videos are deemed 'porno', as are everyday magazine, not so much out of evil as out of ignorance. But the seriousness of the special police is never in doubt.

Told in book-ended flashback and in re-enactment documentary style by Stewart, the adaptation from Bahari's book reporting the ordeal afterwards is textured by conjuring up the physicality of his dead father Baba (Haluk Bilginer) and sister Maryam (Golshifteh Farahani), both victims of the regime. They appear in his prison cell to advise and comfort him, encourage him and give him strength.

The entire cast is superb, with Amir El-Masry as chief spy hunter Haj Agha, Shoreh Aghadashloo as Bahari's mother, Dimitri Leonidas as his driver Davood and Claire Foy as his wife Paola.

It doesn't tell us anything new, but the film puts on record in a powerful way the Iranian tragedy in which the Iranian people (much like the Russian people, for example, among others) are fooled by aspirational ideology, repressed by ideologues or oligarchs and abused by their own people.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ROSEWATER (M)
(US, 2014)

CAST: Gael Garcia Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Dimitrio Leonidas, Haluk Bilginer, Shoreh Aghdashloo, Golshifteh Farahani, Claire Foy, Amir El-Masry, Nasser Faris

PRODUCER: Jon Stewart, Scott Rudin, Gigi Pritzker

DIRECTOR: Jon Stewart

SCRIPT: Jon Stewart (book by Mazia Bahari & Aimee Molloy)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bobby Bukowski

EDITOR: Jay Rabinowitz

MUSIC: Howard Shore

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gerald Sullivan

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 19, 2015







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