The feature film Rosewater is based on The New York Times best-selling memoir Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival written by the BBC journalist Maziar Bahari. A true story, the film marks the screenwriting and directorial debut of “The Daily Show” host and executive producer Jon Stewart, and stars Gael García Bernal, leading an international cast. Rosewater is produced by Scott Rudin, Jon Stewart, and Gigi Pritzker, with Lila Yacoub, Eli Bush and Chris McShane serving as executive producers.
Rosewater f ollows t he T ehran-born B ahari, a 4 2-year-old broadcast journalist with Canadian citizenship living in London. In June 2009, Bahari returned to Iran to interview Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was the prime challenger to controversial incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Mousavi’s supporters rose up to protest Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration hours before the polls closed on election day, Bahari endured great personal risk by submitting camera footage of the unfolding street riots to the BBC. Bahari was soon arrested by Revolutionary Guard police, led by a man identifying himself only as “Rosewater,” who proceeded to torture and interrogate the journalist over the next 118 days.
In October 2009, with Bahari’s wife leading an international campaign from London to have her husband freed and Western media outlets including “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” continuing to keep the story alive, Iranian authorities released Bahari on $300,000 bail and the promise he would act as a spy for the government.
Rosewater has a direct connection to Stewart, who since taking over as host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” in 1999, has turned the nightly half-hour satirical look at newsmakers and news-coverers into not only a perennial Emmy-winning juggernaut, but also an important touchstone on the zeitgeist. Stewart and “The Daily Show” covered Bahari’s saga nightly and had the journalist appear on the show to talk about his ordeal once he was released from prison.