In the west, we have a luxury. We have the luxury of living consequence-free. We can speak our minds in front of a camera, or – ahem – write our thoughts on a blog, and not worry about who might come knocking at our door to take us to task for our free speech. However, we forget sometimes just how fortunate we are to have that luxury. Not only is that not the case throughout the world, but there are cracks in spaces where one world overlaps the next…and once in a while, it’s possible to slip into those cracks…

…just for speaking you mind…just for telling a joke.

ROSEWATER is the story of Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari. In 2009, the London-based journalist returned to his homeland to cover the 2009 presidential election, and the protests it unleashed. While covering it, Bahari was scooped up by the Iranian authorities and imprisoned as a suspected spy. During his time in solitary confinement, he was tormented daily by an inquisitor…prodded to confess to crimes he did not commit.

When one looks at the facts of Bahari’s story, and considers the way this film is being sold, there’s an automatic brace for impact.Knowing that half the film will take place with our hero in prison, one gets inklings of scenes described for much of this past century on CNN…or depicted in ZERO DARK THIRTY. We envision one whole act of torment, and visceral anguish. With that in mind, the single most surprising detail of ROSEWATER is its beauty, hopefulness, and genuine levity.

The humour contained within it shouldn’t be that surprising, considering what Jon Stewart delivers four nights a week on The Daily Show. However, the way he was able to extract it from this story of a human rights atrocity is rather unexpected…let alone that he found a way to execute these joyful touches in his directorial debut. Just as much credit needs to go to Gael Garcia Bernal who is able to dance the steps that have been choreographed by Stewart and Bahari with a great deal of grace. Besides the expected anguish and fear, Bernal finds a way to slip into feelings of levity and exasperation that keep us afloat.

That there is so much joy in ROSEWATER is unexpected, and in some ways it could be the key to its success. It’s a film that will be a tough-sell, since so many do not want the real world to encroach on their escapism. However, it’s by making that reality more palatable that we will get more people to discover these stories, and get a better grasp of what’s happening in the world around them. It’s the spoonful of sugar that helps our medicine go down.

Perhaps if that happens, “they” will come knocking less often and take fewer innocent people. Perhaps if that happens, those who are taken won’t be so alone.