Liam Lacey’s TIFF diary: Jon Stewart rises above Gaza tensions in directorial debut

Nice discussion between Jon Stewart and Maziar Bahari at TIFF on their upcoming film, Rosewater, on Bahari’s imprisonment in Iran following his coverage of the Green Revolution and on the importance of storytelling:

Stewart is Jewish, and his occasionally critical views on Israel have earned him admiration among youth in the Arab world. Bahari was born in Tehran and educated in Montreal. His first documentary, The Voyage of St. Louis, is considered the first film by a Muslim about the Holocaust. On Sunday morning, as church bells were ringing outside, I asked them to talk about cultural bridge-building. They laughed.

“That’s where we met – right in the middle!” said Bahari with a laugh.

“In the middle of the Venn diagram where no one likes you,” Stewart added.

“It was never like: ‘Oh, I want to build cultural bridges. I want to change the world,’” Bahari reflected. “That was the beauty of working with Jon. He wasn’t some activist filmmaker. He has a sense of humour [and] saw it as a good story about family and family love. And then you had this important, political, historical, journalistic background.”

“I think that a good story, well-told, accomplishes those things without that being the goal of it,” Stewart said. “One of the biggest problems with activist work is that it values the activism above the art, and it can get in the way … You can’t create work with a goal in mind in regard to peoples’ reaction. The goal is to tell this really compelling story as best we can.”

Liam Lacey’s TIFF diary: Jon Stewart rises above Gaza tensions in directorial debut – The Globe and Mail.

From my no longer active lymphoma blog, my mini-review of Bahari’s book:

I read And Then They Came for Me, Maziar Bahari’s recounting, as a Newsweek journalist, of Iran’s Green Revolution and his subsequent imprisonment.  Not as sophisticated as Haleh Esfandiari’s My Prison My Home, but lots of common insights into Iran, the interrogation process, courage and ways to keep one’s sanity, and the importance to international pressure to get them released. And with some wonderful asides on Leonard Cohen (his strongest Canadian connection), both his cynical side (Everybody Knows as Bahari realizes the election results will be fixed) and on the romantic or hopeful side (Sisters of Mercy which comes to him while in prison). Another strong, powerful and depressing account of today’s Iran.


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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