The New York Times reports what, in the grand scheme of thing, was probably inevitable – that Daily Show host Jon Stewart will be taking some time to write and direct his very first film, titled Rosewater. Unfortunately, Stewart’s new, quite serious undertaking will also mean that he has to actually take time off from his hosting duties. The comedian is expected to be away from his Comedy Central flagship for twelve weeks in order to film the feature, which he has already adapted from Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy‘s 2011 book “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.” That sounds pretty serious, right?
Stewart’s show actually had something to do with the true life tale at the heart of Rosewater - as the Times tells it: the “Canadian-Iranian journalist and documentarian…was jailed in Tehran in 2009 for four months, accused of plotting to stage a revolution against the government. Shortly before his arrest, Mr. Bahari had participated in a Daily Show sketch, conducted by one of the show’s correspondents, Jason Jones, who was pretending to be a spy. Mr. Bahari’s captors used the footage against him.”
Of course, Stewart and company took the news quite hard, with the newbie filmmaker telling the outlet, “You can imagine how upset we were and I struck up a friendship with him afterward.” Stewart also commented on the tone of the film, saying that “one of the things that appealed to me about the story is that it does have lighter moments. One of the things that kept Maziar alive was his ability to keep his sense of humor – to remember about joy and laughter – and see the absurdity of his situation.”
The book’s Amazon page gives a long form synopsis of the book, which tells us:
When Maziar Bahari left London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential election, he assured his pregnant fiancée, Paola, that he’d be back in just a few days, a week at most. Little did he know, as he kissed her good-bye, that he would spend the next three months in Iran’s most notorious prison, enduring brutal interrogation sessions at the hands of a man he knew only by his smell: Rosewater.
For the Bahari family, wars, coups, and revolutions are not distant concepts but intimate realities they have suffered for generations: Maziar’s father was imprisoned by the shah in the 1950s, and his sister by Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s. Alone in his cell at Evin Prison, fearing the worst, Maziar draws strength from his memories of the courage of his father and sister in the face of torture, and hears their voices speaking to him across the years. He dreams of being with Paola in London, and imagines all that she and his rambunctious, resilient eighty-four-year-old mother must be doing to campaign for his release. During the worst of his encounters with Rosewater, he silently repeats the names of his loved ones, calling on their strength and love to protect him and praying he will be released in time for the birth of his first child.
A riveting, heart-wrenching memoir, Then They Came for Me offers insight into the past fifty years of regime change in Iran, as well as the future of a country where the democratic impulses of the youth continually clash with a government that becomes more totalitarian with each passing day. An intimate and fascinating account of contemporary Iran, it is also the moving and wonderfully written story of one family’s extraordinary courage in the face of repression.
There’s no word just yet about casting on the film.
Daily Show regular John Oliver will take over hosting duties while Stewart is out of pocket.