bahari-then-they-came-for-me

Later this year, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart will take a break from the show to direct his first film, Rosewater. The movie is a fictionalized account of journalist Maziar Bahari’s experience in an Iranian prison, where he was held for almost three months on suspicion of spying.

Now Gael Garcia Bernal has been cast as Bahari, adding another layer of interest to a film that was already bound to receive some close scrutiny.

The Wrap has the story. Stewart has been developing the film for some time. He optioned Bahari’s book Then They Came For Me in 2010 and first announced an effort to film Bahari’s story in 2011. Part of the hook here, for Stewart, was that part of the reason Bahari was suspected of spying against Iran was an appearance the journalist made on The Daily Show, in which he joked about his actions. Video of that appearance was used by his interrogators as “evidence” of Bahari’s intent. And they say that comedy and satire don’t translate.

During his tenure as Daily Show host, Stewart has become one of the most prominent comedians and critics of media and politics in the US. He has made some screen appearances here and there over the years (as in Death to Smoochy), but directing is a new step for him. The subject matter here falls very much in his wheelhouse, but we don’t know if the film will have any of the comic overtones of The Daily Show.

John Oliver will host The Daily Show while Stewart directs Rosewater.

Here’s an account of Bahari’s book, and a basic outline of his experience:

When Maziar Bahari left London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential election, he assured his pregnant fiancée, Paola, that he’d be back in just a few days, a week at most. Little did he know, as he kissed her good-bye, that he would spend the next three months in Iran’s most notorious prison, enduring brutal interrogation sessions at the hands of a man he knew only by his smell: Rosewater.

For the Bahari family, wars, coups, and revolutions are not distant concepts but intimate realities they have suffered for generations: Maziar’s father was imprisoned by the shah in the 1950s, and his sister by Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s. Alone in his cell at Evin Prison, fearing the worst, Maziar draws strength from his memories of the courage of his father and sister in the face of torture, and hears their voices speaking to him across the years. He dreams of being with Paola in London, and imagines all that she and his rambunctious, resilient eighty-four-year-old mother must be doing to campaign for his release. During the worst of his encounters with Rosewater, he silently repeats the names of his loved ones, calling on their strength and love to protect him and praying he will be released in time for the birth of his first child.

A riveting, heart-wrenching memoir, Then They Came for Me offers insight into the past fifty years of regime change in Iran, as well as the future of a country where the democratic impulses of the youth continually clash with a government that becomes more totalitarian with each passing day.

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