Rose Water (2014)




Director:     Jon Stewart.

Starring:     Gael García Bernal (Maziar Bahari), Kim Bodnia (Javadi (Rosewater)), Dimitri Leonidas (Davood), Haluk Bilginer (Baba Akbar), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Moloojoon), Golshifteh Farahani (Maryam), Claire Foy (Paola), Amir El-Masry (Alireza), Nasser Faris (Haj Agha), Kambiz Hosseini (Hassan), Numan Acar (Rahim), Ayman Sharaiha (Blue-Eyed Seyyed), Zeid Kattan (Seyyed), Ali Elayan (Channel One State TV Interviewer), Nidal Ali (Prison Soundsman).

Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari is detained by Iranian forces who brutally interrogate him under suspicion that he is a spy



Spoiler Warning: 

"When I was nine my sister took me to the shrine of Nasuma.  It was beautiful, but I'll never forget the smell.  A mix of sweat and rose water they showered down on the faithful.  I used to think only the most pious carried that scent."

June 21, 2009.  Tehran, Iran.  Three men drive in a car to the home of Maziar Bahari.  Maziar's mother gets her son to wake up.  One of the men tells Maziar to get up and get dressed.  They are here.  The men look through Maziar's personal belongings.  Every western film DVD they call "porno".  They handcuff Maziar and take him away. 

Flashback.  11 days earlier.  London, United Kingdom.  Maziar is packing to leave on a journey.  His pregnant wife talks to him while he packs. He tells her:  "It's just one week."

 On the news, FTV Productions, London:  "There is great anticipation in the run-up to Iran's presidential election.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline incumbent, is no longer the guaranteed victor.  His opponent, the more moderate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has been gaining quickly and could be poised for an historic upset.  But Ahmadinejad's student organizer Alireza Abkar still believes.  'So-called Western democracy is corrupt because it reflects only the will of the people.  Why is the Iranian state so superior?  Where, do I begin?  We have a big, huge backing of Ali Khamenei, and he supports Ahmadinejad's motives.  He understands it's an Islamic state, not a corrupt, Westernized environment which Mousavi would like.' "

It turns out that Alireza Abkar is an Iranian Brit, born and raised. 

Maziar says he was last in Iran three months ago for his sister Maryam's funeral.  "She was my heart."  In 1980, she was arrested by the Ayatollah Khomeini.  Her punishment for being a communist was six years in prison.  Their father, Baba Akbar, has been jailed by the Shah for the same offense.

June 11, 2009.  Tehran International Airport.  Maziar lands and gets into a taxi cab.  He starts asking the young driver about the upcoming elections.  He is working for Newsweek magazine.  Maziar likes the driver and will pay him to drive him around.  The cabbie's name is Davood. 

Maziar goes to his mother's house.  Mother calls the elections "garbage". 

The next morning Maziar is ready for his cab ride.  Davood is here but he only has a motorcycle.  He explains that he borrowed the cab from his friend who was sick, but he never said he had his own cab.  So Maziar gets on the back of the motorcycle. 

Ahmadinejad Campaign Headquarters.  At the headquarters, Maziar interviews Alireza again.  Davood doesn't like this guy Alireza.  He says he will take Maziar to see the other side's point of view. 

Robat Karim, Iran.  Davood introduces Maziar to Hamid and Cyrus.  They say they both are going to vote for Mousavi.  They add that they are the educated.  The guys take Maziar up on the roof of one of the apartment buildings.  There Maziar sees dozen of dish satellites.  The guys call it the Dish University.  Cyrus set up all these dish satellites. 

On the news:  "The economy in Iran is on the verge of collapse!"  "Novels are now censored by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance."

Vali Assar Street Café.  Maziar is being interviewed for a comic TV show.  He has a lot of laughs with the interviewer. 

Dish University, Robat Karim, Iran.  Maziar sits with the university students to watch the election debate.  Outside there is a huge demonstration for Mousavi.

Ershad Polling Station.  June 12, 2009.  Maziar films the voting process.  The journalists are saying that Mousavi is ahead in every province but one.

Karaj Polling Station.  Alireza telephones Maziar and tells him Ahmadinejad has triumphed! Maziar asks how can Alireza know that when the polls are still open?  Alireza doesn't pay any attention to the questions.  He is ecstatic.  Maziar tries to get into the voting station, but the military keeps Maziar out.

The TV announces that Ahmadinejad has been re-elected with almost 63 percent of the vote.  Supposedly, Musavi didn't even carry his place of birth.. 

The opposition accuse the government of election fraud.  For the fourth day in a row, thousands of protestors march through the streets of Tehran. 

Paola wants her husband to come home now that the election is over.  Maziar explains that something special in happening here in Iran. 

June 19, 2009.  Friday prayers.  Tehran University Gates.  Khamenei  is giving the prayers.  He says that challenges after the election are not the right thing to do.  And from now on the protestors will held accountable for any rioting and bloodshed in the streets. 

The police start cracking heads and hauling protestors off to prison.  And still massive protests continue.  Police start shooting people and Maziar is right there to film it.  When his colleagues see the film they are concerned for the safety of Maziar.  He tells them to say the film is uncredited, but a woman journalist says the authorities will know who shot the footage because they have cameras all over the area where the shootings took place. 

Back to the present.  Maziar is photographed.  The prison guard says:  "Welcome to Abu Ghraib, or whatever you Americans like to call it." 

Evin Prison.  Solitary Confinement, Day 1. The interrogator is called Javadi (Rose Water).  His boss is Haj, and he tells Javadi that they must have Bahari's confession!

Maziar has been accused of being a foreign spy.  He asks for whom is he a spy.  Javadi says:  "For CIA, MI6, Mossad, Newsweek.  You tell me." 

Maziar hears in his head his father' voice:  "It's all a show, Mazi. . . .  They are all putting on a play for you, Mazi."

Day 18.  When Javadi isn't making much progress, Haj starts to participated in the interrogation.  He asks Maziar about his father being imprisoned?  Yes, he was imprisoned in 1953.  And, yes, back then, his father was a communist.  The Shah was the one who detained father.  Haj says that at that time didn't Iran have a democratic leader?  Yes, Mohammad Mossadegh.  And, yes, it was a coup organized by the CIA, the Americans, British in Operation Ajax.  And Maziar agrees that the West wanted the Iranian people's oil.  And the Americans backed their puppet, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.  Haj says then it's true that the Iranians are not paranoid?  They have a right to be "paranoid". 

Now Haj shows three photos, one of Davood, one of Hamid and one of Cyrus.  He asks why did Maziar consult with these "saboteurs"?  Maziar responds that they are not saboteurs.  They are normal people, and they are his friends.  Now a guard comes in and takes Maziar away.  Haj tells Javadi that he must take Bahari's hope from him. 

Solitary confinement, day 35.  Javadi tells Maziar that it' odd, because his mother has not contacted them at all.  Normally the family constantly asks about their loved one, but not Maziar's mother.  And there are no visitors or lawyers.  So, let's call mother.  Don't you want to?  Yes, says Maziar.  But when he telephones the telephone just rings and rings without any answer.  Javadi takes the phone away from Mazari, saying that now he (Javadi) is Mazari's mother, father and sister. And now Mazari must sign his confession. 

Day 52.  In a conversation in his head, Maziar tells dad that he is thinking of signing the confession.

Flashback.  May 1980. Evin Prison.  Maziar and his mother want to get into the prison to see sister/daughter.  He gets eventually to sit in the main courtyard.  He is blindfolded.  His sister rushes down to see him.  They hug each other. 

Back to the present.  Javiad says to Maziar that his bosses are not happy with Maziar, so they have decided to kill the spy.   Then he whispers to Maziar that now is the time.  He pulls him out of his cell and outside to a little yard.  He cocks his pistol. He puts the barrel to Maziar's head and then pulls the trigger.  There is only the sound of a click.  He takes him back to his cell and says now that Maziar will have to make a little speech on his crimes against Iran for TV.

Alone in his cell, Maziar reads the script for his TV appearance.  He says to his father that he never had to give a speech on TV.  Dad says:  "They barely touched you.  Others have suffered more."

Day 71.  Maziar goes on television.  They ask him what is his role in the colored coup d'état.  He says in the election reports the western reporters deliberately charged election fraud to make everyone doubt the legitimacy of the elections.  Afterwards, the western media claimed that there was a coup.  He apologizes to Iran's Supreme Leader for his actions and wrongdoings. 

Maziar's mother cries as she watches her son on TV. 

Javiad goes to see Haj, but Haj makes no mention of it.  Javiad mentions it and Haj ignores it.  So Javiad goes back to Maziar and berates him for nothing has changed with his boss.  As punishment, Javiad forces Maziar to lay flat on his stomach, while he hits and pounds on Maziar's back.  Then he starts kicking Maziar in his side. 

And the interrogation goes on, but more bitterly now.  And there are more tortures and beatings.  Maziar thinks about breaking his glasses and slitting his wrists.  He says to himself:  "I'm forgotten."  Now he talks with his sister.  Sister says it's they who are weak, not Maziar. She tells her brother to fight. 

Hilary Clinton appears on television saying that she is just appalled by the treatment that Mr. Bahari and others are receiving in Iran. "It is a show trial." 

A guard mentions to Bahari that Hilary Clinton has been on the TV talking about Bahari.  He calls Bahari a naughty boy. 

Meanwhile, Mazari's mother and wife are trying all they can do to save Mazari.  And the news media really starts talking about Mazari, now missing from his family for six months.  Hilary says that Bahari's imprisonment is a sign of weakness on the part of the Iranian government. 

Javadi comes into Mazari to tell him that his wife talks too much and badly about Iran.  He wants Mazari to call his wife to tell her to stop.  Mazari calls but they just talk about how they are and about the baby.  That makes Javadi mad and he grabs the phone from Mazari and hangs it up.  He shouts at Mazari:  "Be a man!  Control this woman!  She cannot talk badly about us!"  And now, Mazari starts laughing at the situation with Javardi telling him to control his woman.  When Mazari is put back in his cell, he hears the music of Leonard Cohen in his head and dances around the room. 

Day 118.  They have Mazari sign another document.  Mazari signs the document with no resistance at all. 

Mazari is now released from prison.  His mother is there waiting for him.  Mazari starts to cry, as does his mother.  They hug each other. 

"There are currently hundreds of journalists and thousands of blogger/activists imprisoned around the world for the crime of bearing witness.  At home in London, Maziar Bahari now works tirelessly to bring their plight to international attention.  5 days after his release, Maziar was behind the camera again filming the birth of his daughter."

"In memory of Maryam and Baba."


Another film of the excesses of the Iranian government.   An Iranian-British journalist named Mazari covers the story of the elections in Iran in the year 2009.  He happens to cover the resistance to the rigged election that selected Ahmadinejad over the very popular Mousavi.  For this Mazari is thrown into prison in Iran.  He ends up spending 118 days in prison complete with constant harsh interrogations, beatings and other tortures.  The film deals with Mazari's tough time in prison and the injustices of the Iranian system throwing into prison or killing all opposition to the government.  Not a fun place to be.  I have seen Gael García Bernal in a lot of Spanish-language movies and he is just terrific.  Not surprisingly, he does a great job of portraying the sufferings of Maziar Bahari in this English-speaking film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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