There are a couple of bothersome
things about this film that get in the way of its working well as a “true
about a journalist, Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal), born in
but writing for “Newsweek” as an American reporter, being
arrested and imprisoned in
while covering their 2009 elections.
Kept mostly in solitary confinement for 100 days,
the movie is about Bahari’s struggles to remain sane while continually
protesting his innocence, even as he was forced to sign documents that in fact
admitted that he was a spy.
The problem here is not only that Mr. Bernal is
Mexican, and not Iranian, or even remotely Persian.
His English is thickly accented, but then, so is
everyone else’s in this movie, so maybe the Director (first-timer Jon
Stewart) just assumed that nobody would notice the difference.
Well, at the very least, Mr. Bernal is an
accomplished actor, and he is convincing in the reporter’s role.
But why, oh why, do we show him
confined in a cell for 100 days, but his hair never gets longer, and neither
does his beard, which is always the nouveau-stylish scruffy stubble.
What, they didn’t bring him food or water
regularly, but they made sure he had his daily sessions with his hair stylist?
You guys can do better than that.
For somebody who supposedly
endured beatings and torture, Mr. Bernal doesn’t look very beat-up, either,
but perhaps that can be attributed to an intention on his captors’ part for
not marking up his face for when he would inevitably appear before the
television camera in order to renounce his sinful ways, his Western
imperialism that poses a constant threat to the Grand Revolution of the
Ayatollah, and now carried on with sufficient missionary zeal by the current
Iranian President, who absolutely must be re-elected in order to keep Iran
pure from pornographic American influence.
Such as Megan Fox posing in a bathing suit on the
cover of “Esquire” magazine.
Yes, the clear implication is that
the elections were rigged. The alleged overwhelming majority supposedly wanted
to give our Iran-for-the-Iranians incumbent demagogue a bully pulpit for four
more years. It’s
not even mentioned that he was defeated last year by the very opponent whom he
portrayed as the Westernized devil and Imperialist puppet.
Of course it’s not very
entertaining to watch someone languish in solitary confinement.
His dead father appears to him, encouraging him,
because he, too, was once a political prisoner.
Bahari even imagines talking to his pregnant
wife, and nothing helps his mood more than when his jailer, thinking that
actually talking to her would be more tortuous, arranges to put her on the
phone, and Bahari is now gleefully fortified by her assurances of her
steadfast love, and strongly encouraged by her quick reporting of continued
efforts to release him. Though
when he was finally released, apparently the person who held the vigil at the
prison gate was actually his mother.
The only mildly amusing part is
when it finally occurs to Bahari (through one of his dream-images of his
perceptive wife) that his jailer might also have a weakness to be exploited.
So Bahari speaks of decadent nights in hotel
rooms in foreign cities, which so titillates his jailer that he forgets to be
rough for a while. Ah,
the universal appeal of prurience.
Who would have guessed it as a passive-aggressive
As a short documentary, this might
have held more interest, but as a feature-length film, it’s too limiting and
disappointing for anyone but the most fervent pro-Iranians.
? (Psalm 137)
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,