Sunday 29 May 2005

Control Room (2004) - ickleReview (DVD)

Documentary about the Arab satellite news channel Al Jazeera's coverage of the war in Iraq. It's not always clear what Al Jazeera's policy is: they seem to have the Western values of free speech and objective journalism: many of their journalists, I am sure, studied in Europe or the United States - Hassan Ibrahim, for example, used to work for the BBC. Yet Donald Rumsfeld accuses them of pro-Iraqi propaganda when they show pictures of injured Iraqi civilians and dead and captured US soldiers. Ibrahim is likeable, intelligent and has a dry sense of humour - understanding of the West, yet sympathetic towards the Arab point of view, without being overly ideological. One of his colleagues greets him at CentCom as a "star", which may have just been because a camera crew were following him out the back of a van. Samir Khader is a senior producer at Al Jazeera who berates one of the interview producers for inviting a partizan American analyst to speak on the station. It would be fine for an opinion programme, he says, but not the news bulletin. If only CNN and Fox strove for such objectivity in their coverage.

It is refreshing to see the war from the other side; as it is hopeful to see Lt. Josh Rushing, a US Army press officer, backing down from his initially biased point of view and realizing that he has to try to see things from the Arab point of view, and help them to see things from the American point of view. One would hope that our leaders and diplomats could apply the same logic.

This isn't necessarily a documentary with a big message; it merely observes other people in action - perhaps practising the sort of objective journalism that the filmmakers might hope to see in some of their colleagues in the Western press corps.

Nugget: important without being unmissable.

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