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Jon Stewart makes a strong debut as a filmmaker with “Rosewater”

This weekend, a film by the name of Rosewater begins its theatrical run. On the surface, it seems like one of many awards hopefuls, in that it’s a biopic/true story citing a political issue, among other things. Nothing to get to excited about, right? Well, I’d argue to the contrary. There’s at least one unusual note about it, and that’s the fact that it’s written and directed by Jon Stewart. The host of The Daily Show turned to cinema in order to tell this story that clearly touched him in a profound way, and it’s a very good film, let me tell you that. Stewart is a more than capable filmmaker, so there’s a chance that the former Oscar host could find himself an Academy Award nominee this year.

In case you’re not aware of what the movie is about, Rosewater tells the story of Maziar Bahari, a journalist who was imprisoned for about four months in Iran while covering the aftermath of the Presidential election in that country. His time spent in the West makes the Revolutionary Guard assume that he’s a spy, especially after seeing a segment of The Daily Show that he appeared in. Bahari is beaten, interrogated, and consistently has to fight to not have his spirit broken. At the end of it all, his cause became an international one and he was released. Stewart writes and directs, with Gael Garcia Bernal in the lead role. The supporting cast includes Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kim Bodnia, Golshifteh Farahani, Claire Foye, Jason Jones, and Dimitri Leonidas.

The film obviously has a chance to compete for some awards attention. If Academy members are won over by the work (it’s clear they already like him), then Rosewater could compete in Best Picture, Best Director (for Stewart), Best Actor (for Bernal), Best Supporting Actress (for Aghdashloo), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. Some of those are less likely than others, but the flick really can make a play for Picture and Adapted Screenplay. In another year Actor or even possibly Director would be more on the table, but the competition is too fierce. Still, if Oscar voters take to this one, it could do better than many are expecting it too.

That all being said, the movie so far has been received in a very minor way. Critics like it for the most part, but there haven’t really been any raves. I’d actually go so far as to say that I’m probably one of the most positive out there about it, at least going by the reactions I’ve seen from my colleagues. Stewart might not find himself getting the support from the director’s or writer’s branches that a more established filmmaker otherwise would have, which could lead to the work being snubbed. I think Rosewater will have to show up at least a few times on the precursor circuit in order for it not to run the risk of being forgotten by the time voters submit their Oscar ballots.

Gun to my head, I think Rosewater could wind up being shut out on nomination morning, but there’s a very real chance that Stewart pops up in Best Adapted Screenplay to prevent that from happening. With only really Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay to truly shoot for, it’ll be a targeted campaign, to say the least. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out, but regardless of that, Rosewater is a really good movie and one well worth seeing. Starting this weekend, you can check the film out for yourselves, and I urge you to do so.

Stay tuned to see how Rosewater does during the precursor season!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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