Movie Review: Rosewater

Movie Review: Rosewater

Fighting for the rights of free speech and journalism

By Ben McEachenWednesday 18 Feb 2015MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, #jesuischarlie was an instantaneous global movement, supporting freedom of speech.

Film Review: Rosewater

Years earlier, the imprisonment of a journalist in Iran also caused international outrage. The 188 days that Maziar Bahari spent in solitary confinement – being accused of spying against Iran – are the focus of Rosewater. The directorial debut of renowned American satirist Jon Stewart (The Daily Show), Rosewater is an assured, non-hysterical portrait of resisting oppression and censorship. 

Having released footage to Western media outlets, of lethal violence used during protests about Iran’s 2009 election results, Bahari (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) swiftly is arrested. He is confused, scared and bemused, as chief interrogator Javadi (Kim Bodnia) demands he confess to being an American spy. Most viewers never will experience how Bahari’s desire to present truth to the world, took on such threatening dimensions. 

Although Stewart’s psychological drama is based on Bahari’s bestselling memoir, it doesn’t make the Iranian-born reporter out to be a superhero. The absurdity of the false charges never escapes Bahari, yet he also makes statements that he knows are false. To try to save himself from torment and torture, routinely inflicted.

Despite the injustice being committed against Bahari, Rosewater can become dull. Part of the movie’s searing purpose is our sharing in Bahari’s boredom, and the broken-record nature of his accusers. But it takes effort to stay incensed throughout Rosewater. Helping viewers to do this, is how the outrageous treatment of Bahari remains in the foreground. The clash in Iran, between liberty and an imposed brand of Islamic fundamentalism, is a backdrop. Rosewater’s agenda is to object about those who object to freedom of speech. 

If you got behind #jesuischarlie, you’ll get behind Rosewater. While Charlie Hebdo thrust freedom of speech into the international spotlight, Bahari’s detention also raised the media-related issue of telling the truth. Sadly, as news has turned into entertainment, honesty has been devalued. The flood-gates of manipulated information have widened, during our Digital Age. Being cynical or suspicious of anything we read, hear or, even, see has become normal. Yet, truth remains. No matter how you attempt to twist or destroy it, the truth always is the truth.

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“Speaking the truth in love” is a famous saying. Maybe, it came into your mind, at the mention of freedom of speech. Do you know where it comes from? The fourth chapter of Ephesians. The inspiring statement sounds like it could be applied to Bahari. Except, like satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the majority of media outlets, Bahari’s desire to speak truth doesn’t have to be driven by love. Also, that desire doesn’t have anything to do with exactly why the author of Ephesians called readers to speak truth in such a way.

Before any of us wield “speak the truth – in love!!”, take a look at Ephesians 4. Soak in how letter-writer Paul wants such loving honesty to flow, because it combats dodgy Christian teaching AND promotes the unity of Christians. Rosewater and #jesuischarlie can make it seem wrong to not fight for the right to freedom of speech. But, for those like Paul who follow Jesus Christ, do we get so steamed up whenever we hear Christian unity has been trashed by unloving, false speech? Surely, honesty in the name of Christian love, should inspire more passion and dedication, than any other high-profile incident of injustice.


DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
RELEASE DATE: February 19