by Alexa Dalby
In US satirist Jon Stewart’s clever debut as director and co-screenwriter, Mexican Gail Garcia Bernal stars in the true story of journalist Maziar Bahari, who returns to his native Iran to cover the disputed 2009 elections. After uploading his film of police shooting civilians in riots, Bahari is arrested and imprisoned in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison. For 118 days, he is interrogated by ‘Rosewater’ (Kim Bodnia, from Danish TV’s The Bridge). To save the regime’s face, Rosewater must make Bahari confess to spying, so uses psychological torture and beatings. A serio-comic, almost co-dependent, relationship develops. In his cell, Bahari has hallucinations and flashbacks of his dead father – an interesting relationship – and sister, both former political prisoners. To survive, Bahari learns to invent answers that are as crazy as the questions he is being asked and the film is leavened by moments of black humour. In their two-hander which dominates the film, Bernal’s Bahari seems naïve and passive; Bodnia is a mere functionary. The interrogations become repetitive: it is hard to maintain suspense when the outcome is known and the end comes abruptly. The film uses news footage and real people. Outdoor scenes are shot with handheld cameras, Bahari’s cell claustrophobically from above and below. Rosewater lauds the media – it put Bahari in prison but was also instrumental in obtaining his release. Those who helped him were not so lucky.
Rosewater is showing on Oct 12th, 14th & 16th at the 58th BFI London Film Festival