The Films of Maziar Bahari and the Problem with Rosewater

March 9, 2015 | By

Rosewater2014_sJon Stewart’s extremely earnest dramatization of Maziar Bahari’s arrest, torture, and eventual release from prison after reporting on the Green Revolution during Iran’s 2009 presidential elections may be the most accessible introduction to the Canadian-Iranian journalist’s ordeal, but Rosewater (Universal) is hardly the best representation of Bahari as a skilled journalist and educator.

One could argue (quite successfully, I’ll add) that Stewart’s film is largely unnecessary, because Bahari’s own documentaries and his 2011 memoir on his incarceration, Then They Came for Me, fill in more historical and political data that Rosewater’s makers were able to layer within a very average screenplay, but Rosewater exists, and at best, it might prick an interest among those who finish the film to seek out the roughly five short documentaries directed by Bahari for Canadian, U.S., and British TV outlets that are available online for streaming from Vimeo and YouTube.

I’ve tracked them down and given each doc a review, with streaming links embedded at the end of each piece.

TargetsReportersInIraq_snapshotIn order of production dates, Bahari’s docs are And Along Came a Spider (2003), about serial killer Saeed Hanaei; an HIV-positive man seeks romance in Mohammad and the Matchmaker (2004), produced for BBC’s World Weddings series; Targets: Reporters in Iraq (2005) on kidnapped journalists and the challenges in getting real news without risking one’s life in a vicious war zone; An Iranian Odyssey: Mossadegh, Oil and the 1953 Coup (2010), a hugely informative chronicle of Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister and the MI6-CIA coup that returned the Shah of Iran to power in 1953; and From Cyrus to Ahmadinejad: The Not So Secret Iran-Israel War (2012), which chronicles a period of governmental cooperation between the two countries prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Among the docs, one can trace a specific shift in which Bahari’s pre-arrest films were about aspects of Persian culture and ordinary individuals; films made after 2009 are not necessarily more critical or political, but there’s a more overt attempt by the filmmaker to explain from multiple sides  ‘This is why things are so mucked up,’ and why there’s a deep distrust between Western and Iranian governments.

Bahari doesn’t offer solutions – at least within the reviewed quintet of docs, he can’t, because the problems persist – but his narratives are told from the vantage of a dual national; and as an insider trying to break stereotypes using skills learned at Montreal’s Concordia University, working for BBC Persian Television, and as a reporter for Newsweek magazine




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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