COURTESY IFC FILMSPatrick Stewart plays a dance teacher who looks back on his life in “Match.”

COURTESY IFC FILMSPatrick Stewart plays a dance teacher who looks back on his life in “Match.”

Jon Stewart journeys from ‘Daily Show’ to film director

First-time film director Jon Stewart had to adjust and improvise making “Rosewater,” even after 16 years of running “The Daily Show.”

“Working at the television show,” said Stewart, appearing with the film’s subject Maziar Bahari at a San Francisco news conference, “we have sanded off pretty much every rough edge in production. Being out at the film shoot, you're encountering a new set, a new experience, a new setup at every moment – it's much more improvisational. There is a tremendous amount of limitations in terms of money, in terms of time.”

Filming the movie in Jordan, he says he started with a plan to use 5,000 people to recreate Tehran street protests after the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But after realizing it would cost $75 per person, and he could only afford about 75 people, he changed gears. He says, “Ultimately, we just put out a call on Facebook and ended up with some 500 people volunteering to participate without pay.”

Stewart wrote the script with input from Bahari, an Iranian-born Western journalist imprisoned on trumped-up charges while covering the disputed elections in the Islamic republic and tortured during a 118-day captivity. Charges against him included an appearance on “The Daily Show” in which he joked about spies. His captors took the comedy sketch as evidence.

This indirect, and absurd, responsibility was one reason driving Stewart to make the film, even after Bahari already told the story in his memoir, which forms the basis of “Rosewater.” The title comes from the name Bahari gave his interrogator, who wore distinctly scented cologne. Often blindfolded in prison, Bahari used his nose to identify who entered his cell.

Excerpts from a video Bahari shot shot for the BBC of the turmoil in Iran are incorporated into “Rosewater,” giving the story additional authenticity (and saving on extras). Asked about the film's portrayal of Iranian jailers as conflicted, bungling and clownish, not simply evil, Bahari said totalitarian regimes don't mind being feared and regarded as monsters because it “conveys a sense of invincibility, that they cannot be defeated.”

He elaborates, “The torturers have children, aspirations, they go on vacation, they eat, get horny. You have to regard them as human beings, and try to exploit their weaknesses in order to deal with the situation, to stay alive.”

artsJon StewartMaziar BahariMoviesRosewater

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The City has struggled to conduct outreach in some neighborhoods as it works to expand Slow Streets — such as this section of Page Street in the Lower Haight — to underserved neighborhoods. <ins>(Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
SFMTA delays vote on Bayview Slow Streets, approves five others in ‘underserved’ areas

SFMTA struggles to conduct outreach in neighborhoods with lower internet access

Stern Grove Festival organizers are planning to bring back the popular summer concert series — The Isley Brothers show in 2019 is pictured — with limited audience capacity. (Ming Vong/S.F. Examiner)
Indoor shows won’t be flooding SF stages soon but Stern Grove might be back in June

While San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that live performances may resume… Continue reading

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto  (47) started on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 9, 2021. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Giants welcome fans back with strong performance by Cueto

By Ethan Kassel Special to S.F. Examiner ORACLE PARK — The first… Continue reading

James Harbor appears in court after he was arrested on charges in the July 4th shooting death of 6-year-old Jace Young on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Murder case heads to trial over killing of 6-year-old Jace Young

Hearing reveals new details in ‘horrific’ Fourth of July shooting

BART passengers may see more frequent service by this fall. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
BART service increases possible as soon as September

Proposal would double weekday, daytime trains and extend system operating hours

Most Read