That satirist Jon Stewart has written and directed his debut film with the approach of a newsman rather than a comedian should come as no surprise. After all, his ‘Daily Show’ has been delivering some of the most sane, sensible news journalism for almost two decades, despite the fact it’s broadcast on the USA’s Comedy Channel. Underneath Stewart’s gags and sarcasm, his mandate has always been paradoxically earnest – to tell the truth.
Rosewater compassionately tells the true story of a journo, Maziar Bahari (an excellent Gael Garcia Bernal), wrongly imprisoned by the Iranian government in the midst of that country’s possibly rigged 2009 elections.
Taking its lead from political dramas like All The President’s Men, Rosewater is a story that could have been a documentary, and its rhythms often play too close to that form. But when it strays into the more abstract territory of its tortured protagonist’s mind, the film is able to show how comedians can be unlikely heroes for serious causes, and how humour and imagination can survive the worst totalitarian attacks.