Jon Stewart has written and directed the new film “Rosewater,” which hits theaters on Friday. “Rosewater” is the story of Journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) who was back in his home country of Iran to cover the national elections for the BBC. After reporting on protests going on in the country, he was arrested and held for more 100 days in solitary confinement, enduring both mental and physical torture.
I had the good fortune to interview Maziar Bahari and Jon Stewart on the red carpet at the 21st Annual Austin Film Festival.
So what’s it like see your life story up on the big screen?
Maziar Bahari: The film is based on my story and inspired by my story, but it’s really the story of so many of my friends and colleagues around the world who are going through the same thing. I think it’s a great platform to talk about journalism and what journalists are going through. It’s amazing that such a film has been made without any 3-D effects or superheroes.
What do you want audiences to take away from the film?
Bahari: Even though the film is about two male characters, the heart and soul of the film is about the amazing women that made up my life…my mother, my sister, my wife. I am hoping that after watching this film, people can appreciate not only journalism but also their families and their own culture.
So what made you want to pick this film to be your directorial debut?
Jon Stewart: I think we became friendly after Maziar got out of prison. You eat enough oatmeal and granola with somebody; you start thinking “We should make a movie together!” I think it was the memoir that he wrote about his experiences. It was such an unusual story. His father was arrested and beaten by the Shah of Iran’s people. His sister was imprisoned by Khomeini, and now Maziar by Ahmadinejad. It was that generational aspect of it. His ability to be insightful about his experience while retaining his sense of humor. I was really taken by that.
Was this as hard as you thought it was going to be to make?
Stewart: I knew it was going to be pretty hard. But it’s funny, getting interviewed on the red carpet is almost as hard. At least with making the film, you have some control over the process. This part of it, you don’t have any control. You want to get the widest berth you can with it but you just don’t have control over it. You just get pointed and told to move in that direction
What was your favorite scene in your film?
Stewart: It was the scene where Bahari celebrates the knowledge that the world hasn’t forgotten him. The elegance that Gael captured in that scene of him dancing around the cell was just wonderful. I could intellectualize it, I could write it; but he transcended the words into something that was just beautiful.
Thank you gentleman and much success with the film.
Stewart: Thank you!
“Rosewater” opens on Friday in Atlanta area theatres.