Jon Stewart's directorial debut 'Rosewater' to go on sale at Cannes

Posted by · 4:05 pm · March 27th, 2013

While the media and cinephiles alike fixate on the films being officially premiered at Cannes, for many others, the festival is all about the market — a separate insiders’ sphere which nonetheless plays a huge role in determining what we’re going to see in the months and years to come.

A film can be a hot property at the Cannes market before it even visibly exists, and one yet-to-be-shot title that’ll be vying for buyers’ attention on the Croisette this year is “Rosewater,” the directorial debut of “Daily Show” anchor (and erstwhile Oscar host) Jon Stewart.

Sales company Sierra/Affinity will be flogging the film, set to be produced by Stewart with Scott Rudin and OddLot Entertainment head Gigi Pritzker, to international buyers at the festival. (Other OddLot credits include “Rabbit Hole” and recent Sundance hit “The Way, Way Back.”) It has no US distributor at this stage — UTA is handling North American sales — though it’ll be interesting to see for how long that remains the case as it shores up deals in other territories. Will that wait until its presumed debut on the 2014 festival circuit?

Stewart big-screen career began as an actor, and ended on rather a low note 11 years ago with the infamous flop “Death to Smoochy,” back when “The Daily Show” was a relatively young phenomenon. Though his work before the camera has been primarily comic, he’ll be taking a very different tack for his first turn in the director’s chair: “Rosewater” is an adaptation of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari’s bestselling memoir “Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival,” in which he recounts his incarceration by the Iranian government between the months of June and October 2009.

Stewart’s connection to Bahari’s story is a direct one, which should stand him in good stead when making the film. During Bahari’s imprisonment, a “Daily Show” interview in which he’d participated was cited by his captors as evidence of his affiliation with Western spies; the show monitored his ordeal on a daily basis, and featured Bahari as a studio guest after his release. 

Stewart will be taking a 12-week “Daily Show” hiatus this summer to shoot the film. No cast has been announced yet, but it’s clear from the substantial story material, not to mention the interesting power pairing of Stewart and Rudin, that this could be a prestige item to watch next year. Could Stewart be angling for some film industry honors to add to his 18 Emmy Awards? We’ll see. Things turned out pretty nicely for the last Iranian hostage drama to hit theaters, after all.

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