Last night in South Miami, the preview screening of Jon Stewart's directorial debut Rosewater was attended by me, my parents, three of our friends, and just about a dozen other people. Rushing there after work, I assumed the place would be packed and I'd be sitting on the floor with a bunch of idealistic 20 year old girls with daddy issues, laughing with stars in their eyes at every Stewart-penned joke. The theater is steps from the University of Miami, and you'd think college students would be interested in a film that makes world affairs watchable and even amusing. Even my parents bought their tickets weeks ago.
After the movie, a broadcast of Stewart and the journalist who inspired the film, Maziar Bahari, being interviewed live by Stephen Colbert was shown in that and 250 other US theaters. But again, there were no more than 16 people in the theater. It was confusing and stereotypically disappointing.
Just this afternoon, 6 in the Mix, NBC's local show showed an interview with Bahari -- who says he's a fan of Miami -- and he got about three minutes on air. I mean, this man was tortured for 118 days for bearing witness to the Persian government's offenses against protesters of the Green Movement after the 2009 presidential elections and distributing the footage worldwide. So, though South Miami didn't turn out to watch the film, at least we got Bahari here this morning. Which lends Miami some legitimacy as a really nice place to vacation after the movie about your political imprisonment premieres.
You need to watch this film. If you don't know the backstory, the Daily Show sent Jason Jones to Tehran before the elections for a segment. While there, he spoke with Bahari -- who was visiting his homeland and covering the events for Newsweek. Not long after, his captors used this interview against him as proof he was a Western spy.
Colbert asked Stewart if he'd felt guilty about his role in all this. Though Stewart said no, the fact that he ended up making a full length feature on Bahari's experience indicates otherwise. He said his frustration with trying to make the movie happen as a producer led him to pull the trigger and transition to the role of writer/director.
As it turns out, Bahari is funny enough to keep up with these two funniest-dudes-on-television. The film is surprisingly brings a lot of laughs and not surprisingly takes a compassionate approach to all the characters. Bahari pointed out that this is the only movie out there that shows what it's like in present day Iran.
Stewart tried to touch upon a ton of poignant topics, and in a way didn't entirely succeed at following through on all the points he seemed to be trying to make. However, it was his first feature, and Rosewater was a true success on its own as just a story. If you let go of some of the larger messages -- the power of the media is a big one -- and embrace the humor and tale, you actually can learn something while being entertained and applaud Stewart's brave approach to a complex and confusing topic.
The original intention of Jason Jones' Daily Show Iran field piece was to show that the citizens of Iran -- despite being referred to by our president as "The Axis of Evil" -- are just people. People with their own hopes, aspirations, struggles, families, and lives. Rosewater drives home this point. And serves as a big fat period at the end of that original sentence.
And in case you didn't go last night, I want to add that Colbert found a way to throw a Kim Kardashian ass photo question in. And you missed it.