Scanlyze

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“Control Room” Delivers Some Bitterly Ironic Retrospection

Control Room
Delivers Some Bitterly Ironic Retrospection

by Henry Edward Hardy

If 2004 was The Year of the Documentary, then Control Room, Jehane Noujaim’s film on the independent Arab News channel, Al-Jazeera, ranks among the best. Control Room tells the story of the network and the early days of the Iraq War through the eyes of Jazeera reporter Hassan Ibrahim, senior producer Samir Khader and U.S. spokesperson Lieutenant Josh Rushing.

Khader makes penetrating points about the climate of fear perpetuated inside the U.S. by the Administration, and both he and Ibrahim express substantial (and warranted) skepticism about Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction.

“Pulverized. Dead bodies en masse — and why? We get these pictures and we show them. Unfortunately we get grief from the Americans who say we are inciting rebellion, instigating anti-American sentiments. They cannot have their cake and eat it,” says Ibrahim.

Lt. Rushing is a surprisingly appealing figure in the film, genuinely troubled by many of the inconsistencies between the war as he is told to present it and the feedback and questions presented by foreign press such as Jazeera.

The film shows powerfully how both Al-Jazeera and western coverage are manipulated by reporters, producers, governments and public opinion. We see how the iconic footage of the statue of Saddam being toppled was the result of a U.S. “Psyops” (psychological operations) battalion’s efforts and not a spontaneous uprising of the Iraqi people.

We see civilian casualties, simple homes of simple people. A woman stands in front of a house with its front blown off and shouts, “Welcome to my house, Mr. Bush. Look at this! Don’t you have any humanity? How can you accept a little girl crying for her mom and dad?”

We then cut to U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, explaining, “What they do is when a bomb goes down, they grab some children, and some women, and pretend that the bomb hit the women and the children,” Rumsfeld continues with a death’s-head, rictus-like grin. “To the extent that people lie, ultimately they are caught lying. They lose their credibility. And one would think that that wouldn’t take long dealing with people like this.”

Viewing the film now is informed by subsequent revelations. One cannot help a bitter smile at the irony and self-serving hypocrisy of Bush when he says he expects Iraq to treat U.S. captives humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, as he asserts, the U.S. treats its captives.

Control Room is available on DVD and VHS and for rental from local video stores.

A version of this article was previously published in Current Magazine and on Electric Current, http://www.eCurrent.com .

Control Room (IMDB)
Control Room (Rotten Tomatoes)
Control Room (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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19 January, 2007 - Posted by | archives, Bush, covert operations, intelligence, Iraq, movies, news, politics, reviews, Rumsfeld, scanlyze, war

2 Comments »

  1. […] Weighing in at a hefty two-and-a-half hours, the film, like Fahrenheit 9/11, mimics the documentary style, but exploits it to present carefully edited interviews and video clips to promote a single, if somewhat incoherent, pre-determined view. These are the movie counterparts of editorial cartoons rather than the journalism per se of more traditional and balanced (and ultimately one might argue, more interesting) documentaries, such as Control Room. […]

    Pingback by The Corporation: Benevolent Giant or Pathological Monster? « Scanlyze | 24 January, 2007 | Reply

  2. The great value of the impersonal, observational technique employed in Control Room is that it immerses the viewer in the contingency and complexity of events as they happen, notes A. O. Scott in a review for New York Times. “Whatever your opinions about the war, the conduct of the journalists who covered it and the role of Al Jazeera in that coverage, you are likely to emerge from ”Control Room” touched, exhilarated and a little off-balance, with your certainties scrambled and your assumptions shaken. All of which makes it an indispensable example of the inquisitive, self-questioning democratic spirit that is its deep and vexed subject.”

    A major strength of ”Control Room,” is being attuned to the paradoxes and predicaments, as well as the dangers, its journalists face. The documentary clearly observes that most of those who appear in the film cling to a journalistic ethic of objectivity and fairness, trying to navigate between their political allegiances and the code of their craft. Nobody sums up better than Marjorie Baumgarten writing in Austin Chronicle she recommends: “Control Room should be required viewing for anyone within reach of a TV signal.”

    Comment by Jim | 19 April, 2007 | Reply


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