Telluride Film Fest: Interview with Jon Stewart About “Rosewater”

Telluride Film Fest: Interview with Jon Stewart About “Rosewater”

The film was a crowd favorite at the 41st annual Telluride Film Festival. Film critic Lisa Kennedy interviews Jon Stewart about “Rosewater” for the Denver Post.

Gael Garcia Benal, star of “Rosewater, with his director, Jon Stewart

Gael Garcia Benal, star of “Rosewater,” with his director, Jon Stewart

While being held and tortured in Iran’s Evin Prison by a man known simply as Rosewater, Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari knew he would write a book about his experience when — if — he got out. When he did, he penned 75,000 words. He pared them down to a 10,000-word Newsweek article that became the basis for his 2011 best-selling memoir, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival.” The film adaptation of that memoir, “Rosewater,” featuring a powerful turn by Gael García Bernal, opens Nov. 14.

It’s directed by first-time filmmaker Jon Stewart. Yes, the host of Comedy Central’s long-running, news-poking, sanity-boosting “The Daily Show.”

The seemingly unlikely pairing of a supremely smart jester with the journalist for a weighty drama may seem odd. But in 2009, while covering Iran’s presidential elections, Bahari appeared on a “Daily Show” segment. When he was arrested, the footage of that segment was used as evidence that Bahari was a Western agent.

One might consider “Rosewater” the result of instigator’s guilt. Stewart has. “The original impetus for the film came from my own feelings of guilt and atonement over what happened to him in Iran,” he has said.

At the Telluride Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere, Stewart proved he could pack ’em in. “In my 13 years as a volunteer, I’ve never seen a line like this,” said a badge-checking veteran outside the fest’s first screening of the hushed, compelling drama…

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