Jon Stewart, Maziar Bahari discus “Rosewater”

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Gael Garcia Bernal in "Rosewater"

This just in: Jon Stewart is a very funny guy.

But so is Mazia Bahari and the the two played off each other beautifully in a 40-minute Q&A Thursday night at the Paramount after the screening of Stewart’s director debut “Rosewater,” about Bahari’s 2009 imprisonment and torture in Iran after the London-based Iranian journalist was accused of being a Western spy. The two talked with AFF director Barbara Morgan.

“It made the development process much easier after he was out of jail,” Stewart said, to roars of laughter from the packed house. In truth, it sounds like Bahari’s memoir, “The They Came For Me” and Stewart’s script were developed if not in tandem than close together. After trying to find real directors for the project, Stewart said he essentially decided “(Explitive) it, I’ll do it.”

Bahari noted that both humor and journalism come from observation and that the whole thing was so absurd that he eventually began to think of Rosewater, his name for the anonymous interrogator as his muse. Stewart noted that humor is a “higher order of reasoning” and that the humor helped see this not as man versus monster but as a situation two human beings were in.

Bahari said he has no religious beliefs and that he concentrated his thoughts on his family and art (Leonard COhen, the baby he had on the way). Both notes that you could not actually heighten the absurdity of what went on in the jail cell — not only would audiences not buy it, but the lines of questioning were nuts enough.

When asked about the film being entirely in English, Stewart said (half-jokingly?) he initially wanted to shoot it in Farsi with Iranian actors. Bahari pulled him back with a “Don’t you want people to see it?” “He made me own my inauthenticity,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he was hoping for something more than what the current dialogue between Iran and the U.S. is, which he characterized as “‘You’re the axis of evil,’ ‘Well, death to you.'”




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