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Control Room

News accounts should challenge us. "Control Room" has a perspective most Americans wont share. The Bush administration propagandized the Iraq War; this film is biased toward Al-Jazeera, which Rumsfeld calls, Osama Bin-Ladens mouthpiece," while doing his own spin. The documentary shows Al-Jazeera can be right and Americans can be wrong; Al-Jazeera reporters admit bias. Propaganda is on both sides.

In 1996, Al-Jazeera became the first independent news channel for 40 million Arab viewers. Noujaim shows important members of Al-Jazeera, including producers Sameer Khader and Deema Khatib, and the disgusted Hassan Ibrahim, a journalist who worked for the BBC. An American reporter observes, "Everyone who works for the BBC eventually works for Al-Jazeera. Khader says matter-of-factly the media needs propaganda, regrets the necessity of cant, and begrudgingly admires how Americans do it. Khatib is a cynic: if Fox gave him work, he'd take it, and he'll send his children to U.S. school. Hassan is adamant that America is imperialist: Eventually youll need a solution without bombing someone into submission.

From Central Command ("CentCom") in Qatar, 700 miles from Bagdad, we see Bush threaten to invade Iraq, and Saddam Hussein topple. From Al-Jazeeras view, Bush uses fear, PFC Jessica Lynch, and a silly deck of cards designating men most wanted to manipulate opinion. It's not coincidence when three Arab journalists die by American bombing. Rumsfeld accuses Al-Jazeera of faking shots of civilian deaths, but Noujaim cuts to indisputable pictures of victims of American bombs, and then to Arabs speaking wishfully about the war. She explores the controversy of Al-Jazeera televising graphic civilian casualties and American POWs. When Iraq falls, Noujaim shows Al-Jazeera reporters' shocked disbelief to what they must have expected. When an American asks an Al-Jazeera spokeswoman about bias, she asks if American media is biased. Nabeel Khoury of the State Department says Al-Jazeera invites Americans' points-of-view, and he often gives his.

Articulate young American press officer Lt. Rushing struggles to balance his view with Arab alternatives barraging him, and admits that, although he tries to resist, he's carried away into engaging in some spin. The Iraq War created controversy across the political spectrum. About its outcome, Khader says, People like victory."
Director(s): Jehane Noujaim
Writer(s): Jehane Noujaim
Cast: Interviewsof Donald Rumsfeld, Sameer Khader, Deema Khatib, Hassan Ibrahim, Lt. Rushing
Release Date: 2002   
Keyword: Al-Jazeera new agency; U.S.-Iraq War
Target Age: 14+   Category: war and peace
Documentary: yes
Language: English with some Arabic subtitles   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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