Open Road Films as acquired U.S. distribution rights to Rosewater, Jon Stewart’s (yes, the host of The Daily Show) directorial debut. The drama tells the true story of a journalist who was detained while on assignment in Iran and brutally kept prisoner for north of one hundred days. The film is based on the non-fiction book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival by Mazier Bahari and Aimee Molloy. Stewart, winner of an astounding 19 Emmy awards as the host, creator and co-writer of pop culture touchstone The Daily Show, wrote the screenplay and filmed the movie last summer while the shows summer break.
Gael Garcia Bernal (No, Babel) stars as Bahari, a Tehrani-born BBC journalist who visited Iran in June of 2009 to cover the upcoming presidential elections only to find himself in a most harrowing position after being held captive by the Revolutionary Guard Police. His imprisonment was overseen by a man only known as “Rosewater” who tortured and interrogated the journalist for 119 days. Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand & Fog; X-Men: The Last Stand) co-stars as Bahari’s mother. Oscar-winning mega producer Scott Rudin (No Country For Old Men) produced the film through his OddLot banner. Rosewater is expected to be a big-ticket item for international sales at the about-to-start Cannes Film Festival.
It makes a certain amount of sense why Stewart would be drawn to the material. While known as a comedian, Stewart and his Daily Show colleagues have come to represent an altogether different source of journalism, especially to a younger generation which likely learns most of the world’s events through the comedic fun house of Stewart and company’s Comedy Central shows. Throughout the comedic bent on news coverage, Stewart (on air and off) has also led a through-line of acidic assault on American journalism and the responsibility of reporting the news. Rosewater looks to mark an important story not just for journalistic integrity, but also for Stewart as well. While the real life events were unfolding, The Daily Show covered the material and also invited the real-life Bahari on his show.
While no release date has been announced, it seems likely the film will have its world premiere at one of the fall festivals (Venice, Telluride, Toronto) and perhaps come out theatrically soon after. While Open Road is relatively new on the distribution front (they are owned by the two largest theater chains in the United States – AMC Theaters and Regal Entertainment Group), it would seem to reason that Rosewater could potentially be the film to put them on the awards map for the first time. Past acclaimed films in the Open Road canon include David Ayer’s End of Watch and Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects.