Gael Garcia Bernal in Rosewater
Credit: Laith Al-Majali

Jon Stewart’s directing debut is not a comedy. In fact, it’s about as far from funny as he could get. The Daily Show host adapted Rosewater from the 2011 memoir of Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari, who was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for 118 days following Iran’s highly contested 2009 presidential election. While it might seem like odd source material for a comedian, Stewart has a personal connection to the story: Bahari had appeared in a 2009 Daily Show segment with Jason Jones. Bahari’s interrogators later used that sketch against him as evidence that he was a Western collaborator. Still, says Stewart, ”Maziar is an incredibly warm, intelligent, and sort of sparkly fella who has an ability to maintain his sense of humor.” That very quality led the director to cast Mexican-born actor Gael García Bernal as his lead. ”He’s got an elfin quality of mischief that Gael, when he read for the role, really captured. It’s difficult to retain a sense of that while in solitary confinement.” He recalls, ”I asked Maziar, ‘How would you feel about Gael playing you?’ [Imitates Bahari] ‘I do not know if he’s handsome enough to play me.”’

  • Movie
  • 103 minutes