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Control Room
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by Josh Gryniewicz

"Truth is the first casualty of war"
5 stars

Taken in combination with "Fahrenheit 9/11", Jehane Noujaim’s "Control Room" fills in the broad gaps of American media coverage during the war.

“Control Room” provides audiences full access to the Al-Jazeera network, the Arab world’s number one media source, branded by the Bush administration as a mouthpiece for Osama Bin Laden and banned in several Arab countries for challenging their leadership. As the U.S. military intervention in Iraq wound up, Al – Jazeera was pushed into an increasingly difficult situation -- pick up the Pentagon issued PR every U.S. network was spewing or report accurately on what was going on in their own backyard. In other words, when many of your viewers have felt the aftershocks of America’s excessive Baghdad bombing; or have been acquainted with at least one of the between 11,164 – 13,118 civilian casualties; or have experienced such atrocities first hand, it is difficult to espouse on the technological innovations of precision bombing. It is more difficult to issue bold faced lies when someone can look out their window and check your sources – which is probably why American media has changed their tune on WMD’s and al – Queda connections since the U.S. casualties have been on the rise. Al – Jazeera’s commitment to showing the human cost of war through both Iraqi and U.S. victims resulted not only in a smear campaign that dubbed them pro-Saddam, terrorist supporting propagandists, but also made their Baghdad office an “inadvertent” target of those incredibly accurate, ultra – precise, “smart” bombs.

Jehane Noujaim, the 29 – year – old Egyptian – American filmmaker gained access to the network two-weeks before the invasion with the promise of being an independent observer. Her dual nationality, self-professed lack of political allegiance (she states her loyalties are to the characters) and genuine interest in exploring the issue without agenda make the film that much more powerful. The film is brilliantly paced with all – too – familiar “major news events” (the initial invasion; the now debunked Jessica Lynch rescue that coincided with the invasion of Baghdad; the allegedly staged toppling of the Saddam statue) which act as historical staples to gauge the chronology of the film.

This strategy provides more than cohesion, powerfully illustrating the film’s central theme, the significant lack of information being fed to reporters. For example, in one scene CentCom makes a big to do about “Most Wanted” playing cards circulated to soldiers in the field, but then bars access of the cards to journalists – despite the fact that they are now readily available at just about any gas station (buy one, get a plastic flag free) – the reporters are forced to go live and speak in abstract about them. CNN correspondent Tom Mintier provides an interesting touchstone for these issues, a familiar face to those of us who caught occasional bits of the incessant 24 – hour coverage and still felt ill informed. His behind the scenes frankness explains why (a refreshing contrast to some of the other U.S. journalists featured in the film). When shown in the context of the real events occurring in Iraq, the mass – coverage of major U.S. networks appears paltry. U.S. brass flagrantly bluffs success; Jessica Lynch embarrassingly admitted her story was a sham; life-long citizens of Iraq profess that the Saddam statue vandals aren’t residents – but these are the events we recollect as chronicling the war. “Where were you when…” all becomes strangely bogus.

At the heart of the documentary is the cynically charming journalist Hassan Ibrahim, whose wry humor rivals Moore’s own and Lt. Josh Rushing, U.S. Central Command Press Officer, whose illumination on many of the issues underscoring the war is gradually revealed throughout the film. All of the characters represented in the film serve Noujaim’s objective to present people in a manner as compelling as fiction, but at its core, however, the film transcends this war expressing by its example “objectivity” in the media and more broadly the nature of truth.

Noujaim’s material is executed in a way that resonates deeper than Moore’s; the conflict between media perception and the nature of reported truth extends well beyond Ann Coulter and Al Franken squaring off in a heated bout of name-calling. Truth isn’t a partisan affair, it is not differentiated between two pro-war, pro-corporate candidates and the color of their ties; it is the difference between reporting events as they occur or skewing those events to be concealed completely.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8538&reviewer=362
originally posted: 07/11/04 21:23:21
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.

User Comments

10/07/05 mohanad al shaar it was a great movie about a very great channel 5 stars
6/30/05 Phil M. Aficionado See it, listen to the commentary of the 2 Al Jazeera staff member central characters. A+ 5 stars
1/31/05 Jim Riveting; might be considered "propaganda" by rigid idealogues. 5 stars
12/29/04 DM A must-see film if ever there was one 5 stars
11/08/04 james Incredible film that brilliantly shows media biasis. 5 stars
9/17/04 Graham Some amazing journalism, though not quite a satisfying film narrative 4 stars
7/18/04 M Lin Consider the complexity of information sources, exercise critical thinking. 5 stars
7/07/04 Bill Valuable insights for US citizens before 11/2 vote 5 stars
6/20/04 Russ Sims A refreshing piece of filmmaking about war as seen by the eyes of the so-called "enemy" 5 stars
6/11/04 Boombah Baby You Americans need to start realizing that unpopular truth is not propaganda. 5 stars
6/10/04 NICK HABIB Outstanding movie that prompts the mind to think rather then just absorb 5 stars
5/21/04 steve Liberal Propaganda??? 2 stars
4/25/04 stenobabe provocative, disturbing 5 stars
4/04/04 Giulia Cox Subtle, provoking. NOT a polemic; rather, an intelligent look at unfolding events. 5 stars
2/24/04 John F A should be manditory viewing in HS gov't classes. 5 stars
2/23/04 Cheron McGuffey This film is an eye opener - to understand the human cost of this war look here. 5 stars
2/21/04 Paulus A must see for everyone, especially every American! 5 stars
2/19/04 Andrea Valenti We talked about this film for hours-- A MUST SEE!! 5 stars
2/08/04 Alec Therins What is truth? What is Propaganda? What is an unbias view? 4 stars
1/31/04 John Langford Great film, worth seeing twice. 5 stars
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  DVD: 26-Oct-2004



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