Jon Stewart premieres first film, Rosewater, at TIFF 2014

Comedian Jon Stewart is revealing his dramatic directorial debut Monday night, laying Rosewater before the crowds and critics at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Daily Show host and first-time director reflects on relationship with journalist Maziar Bahari

Jon Stewart makes his directorial debut

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

Jon Stewart his revealing his directorial debut Monday night, laying the drama Rosewater before the crowds and critics at the Toronto International Film Festival.

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.

First concern: Do no harm

The brutal detention followed Bahari's appearance on Stewart's satirical news program The Daily Show. The appearance itself appears to have drawn the ire of the Iranian authorities and, in an interview with CBC News, Stewart said he panicked when he found out about the 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," by the Iranian government in 2009, said the comedian.

"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 no Stanley Kubrick

The famed comedian and the political activist bonded over a shared 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."

Bahari reflects on finding humour in his horrific experience in the video above.

Tune into The National Monday night when CBC Arts reporter Eli Glasner looks at the friendship that blossomed between Stewart and Bahari during filming,

Watch for Wendy Mesley's feature interview with Jon Stewart when the film goes into wide release on Nov. 7.


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