Entertainment

Jon Stewart 'couldn't wait' to tell Canadian journalist's story in Rosewater

The Daily Show host's first feature film, the political drama Rosewater, opens in theatres this weekend.

The Daily Show host's film about Maziar Bahari opens in theatres this weekend

First-time director, Jon Stewart, reflects on bringing his film Rosewater, about Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, to screen at TIFF 2014 2:25

Canadian Jon Stewart fans will get their first look at the satirist's directorial debut this weekend when his political drama, Rosewater, goes into wide release.

The film is the dramatized true story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari and the five harrowing months he spent behind bars in Tehran's Evin prison.

The story is dark territory for the TV personality best known for lambasting politicians from behind his desk on the satirical news program The Daily Show. 

"My feeling was it's an urgent story," said Stewart in a recent interview with CBC. "It's a really relevant story and we couldn't wait ten years, twelve years to make it."

Bahari's brutal detention actually followed an appearance on The Daily Show. The televised visit appears to have drawn the ire of the Iranian authorities and Stewart says he panicked when he found out about Bahari's arrest.  

Gael Garcia Bernal stars as journalist Maziar Bahari in Jon Stewart's directorial debut Rosewater. (TIFF)
"This was at a time of a crackdown," said the comedian, referring to the Iranian government in 2009.

"We were aware that there were thousands that were being arrested," he said, adding that the first concern, when having guests on The Daily Show, is to "do no harm."

Despite the ties to his show, Stewart says Bahari has disabused him of responsibility. The political satirist points to many absurd excuses the Iranian authorities used to take Bahari in.

"They also spent a lot of time asking about Anton Chekhov and Pauly Shore," quipped Stewart.

Stewart is not Stanley Kubrick

The famed comedian and the political activist bonded over their shared sense of humour and a desire to turn Bahari's book, Then They Came For Me, into a feature film. 

The 2011 memoir details the intense physical and psychological torture Bahari endured in prison, and paints his rosewater-scented captors as prisoners as well.

Bahari, show spent 118 days in an Iranian prison, said he had 'no problem' turning his story over to first-time director Jon Stewart. (CBC)
It's an important and emotional tale to entrust to a man best-known for his late-night comedic takedowns, but Bahari had no problem handing his life story over to the first-time filmmaker.

"Jon Stewart is not Stanley Kubrick," Bahari told CBC News. "[But] Jon is a very intelligent person and I knew that, even if he failed miserably, his failures would be much better than the best work of many other people."

Stewart and Bahari reflect on finding humour in the horrific story in the video above.

Watch Wendy Mesley's feature interview with Jon Stewart on The National on Friday night.

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