Jon Stewart is taking the summer off from The Daily Show, leaving the comedy newscast in the capable hands of John Oliver for eight of the twelve weeks Stewart will be away. There’s good reason for the host’s break from the show, however: he’s doing to direct his first feature film.

In 2011 Stewart announced on the show that he had optioned Maziar Bahari‘s book Then They Came For Me, which tells of Bahari’s capture and imprisonment in Iran, where he was jailed and interrogated for 118 days in 2009. Stewart wrote a script based on the book, and will direct the film, Rosewater, later this year. 

Deadline explains that the film’s title comes from one fact: during his interrogations, Bahari could ID his interrogator only by the fact that he smelled of rosewater.

There’s also the interesting notion on Stewart directing. When originally announced, we thought he was going to produce. That should make the project a lot more appealing to his fans, and probably to the public at large. There’s reason for The Daily Show to be included in the film, too, as the reason the UK journalist Bahari was imprisoned was that Iran accused him of spying. Some of the evidence called into play was one of the writer’s appearances on The Daily Show.

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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