CONTROL ROOM (2004)
Running Time: 84 mins. Rating: 5 Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Jehane Noujaim
Language: English, Arabic
The TV station the George W. Bush regime loves to hate (“Osama Bin-Laden’s mouthpiece” – Colin Powell) gets its close-up in this controversial new film by director Jehane Noujaim “StartUp.com”.
It was filmed in the control room of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, ‘the Arab CNN’, during the first three months of Desert Storm II, and is a frightening revelation. We are given a behind-the-scenes look at the personalities of this feisty group of television journalists and their struggle to present their take on the truth to their viewers, the Arab masses, while battling subtle and not so subtle charges of ‘bias’ by the US military command structure who are busily spinning the facts as professional propagandists with a military objective. The blatant manipulation of the press by the US military and the ready capitulation of the journalists on the ground show us how managing the news has become just as important as winning the war through brute strength and smart bombs.
Al Jazeera’s public face is the roly-poly teddy bear journalist Hassan Ibrahim, who shrewdly takes apart each public statement made by US military command while making his case to fulfill the network’s mandate to report “all viewpoints with integrity and balance.” The film also documents the US military’s intentional targeting of the Baghdad locations of Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV along with the Palestine Hotel, even though they were informed of the exact coordinates of each location before Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced. The official statement claims that Iraqi troops were firing upon coalition forces from these locations, but this has been denied by most journalists on the ground.
Lt. Josh Rushing, Central Command Press Officer, U.S. Army hits the nail on the head when he compares the war coverage as being about Arab nationalism vs. American patriotism. Once again we hear the cry from the wilderness for George Orwell’s ‘Notes On Nationalism’ to take its proper place on everyone’s bookshelf for easy access.
The only complaint with the film is the filmmaker’s inference that the only journalists who matter work for American media companies or the BBC. Nowhere do we see any reference to the presence of news outlets such as CBC (Canada), NHK (Japan), RAI (Italy) and their other contemporaries. There is one brief scene with a reporter from the French newspaper Liberation that shows us once again that all journalism is subjective.
Like the recent re-release of the classic “Battle Of Algiers”, “Control Room” is a film that will change the way one looks at Western government policy in Third World countries. A must see for all thinking persons no matter their political persuasion.
If you like this recommendations: Uncovered: The War On Iraq, Spin (1995), Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky & The Media