Tuesday, October 14, 2014

ROSEWATER - LFF14 - Day Seven

You can listen to a podcast review of this film here or subscribe to Bina007 Movie Reviews on iTunes.

ROSEWATER is a compelling and important film that is funny, insightful and imaginatively directed.  That it also the debut feature of Daily Show star Jon Stewart is all the laudable because while be brings his intellect and wit to bear he doesn't let his on-camera overwhelm the story.  

The film is the true story of Iranian-British journalist Maziar Bahari who travelled to Iran to report on the elections in June 2009.  When the popular choice didn't win, Iranian people took the streets in the "colour revolution". What is fascinating is that Bahari had been reporting from Iran for many years and new just what he could get away with reporting without invoking the ire of the Iranian authorities. Yet in this particular case, he was moved to allow footage of soldiers shooting a protestor be published on TV - taking a moral stand.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was than arrested and kept in confinement as the Iranian state accused of him being a spy and a stooge of a Western media conspiracy to attack Iran.

Gael Garcia Bernal is superb as Maziar - somewhat against my expectations.  He adopts just enough of an Iranian accent on his English to be credible and nicely portrays the absurdity and incredulity of the man caught up in accusations of spying because of a spoof video he'd shot for The Daily Show.  But the actor who really steals the film for is the one who plays Maziar's "Specialist" interrogator. He paints the picture of a man who is capable of torture, yes, but also world-weary, fearing his own boss, somewhat naive and occasionally very funny.  It's an essential part of the film that we believe he is vulnerable because the point Maziar and Jon Stewart are trying to make is that the regime is ultimately scared and afraid. 

Behind the lens, the film is worth seeing for giving us a rare glimpse of life in contemporary Iran.  Jon Stewart elegantly and powerfully shows us Maziar's relationship with his father and sister, both of whom were persecuted by the state.  There's a quick introductory scene where the history of Maziar's relationship with his sister is shown on the city streets through which Maziar walks that is very special indeed.  Indeed, the only technical flourish I thought distracting and unnecessary was the superimposition of twitter feeds on an Iranian cityscape.

Overall, a worthy, funny, frightening and insightful film and an impressive debut.

ROSEWATER has a running time of 105 minutes. ROSEWATER played Telluride, Toronto and London 2014 and opens in the USA on November 7th. The movie opens in the UK and Ireland on May 8th 2015.

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