May 21, 2004
On the Big Board
||"Democratize or I will shoot you." A fantastic quote from an underwhelming film.
||A look at Al-Jazeera that isn't especially unbiased, but it's still interesting to see the viewpoints presented.
||An interesting look, but doesn't dig deep enough
From the director of the captivating Startup.com comes this documentary about the inner workings of the Middle Eastern news agency Al-Jazeera, an organization that has been called "Iraqi controlled" and "anti-American." US officials have accused the organization of violating the Geneva convention, of being the mouthpiece of Osama Bin Laden, and of placing women and children in front of bombed-out sites.
Jehane Noujaim, who made her roommate Kaleil Isaza Tuzman a minor star when she followed his efforts at creating a major Internet venture just as the dot com bubble was on the verge of bursting, now goes behind the scenes of the first free Arab news network (meaning that it is not state controlled, but instead funded through advertising) and turns the myth of journalistic impartiality on its head.
Seeing our own major news organizations become the butt of jokes due to their bias and slant (The Simpsons skewering of Fox News stands out as a prime example), Noujaim follows several very specific personalities from within the Al-Jazeera organization as well as some of the U.S. liaisons to their reporters.
There's the anti-Saddam Iraqi who is an Al-Jazeera producer, an American officer charged with PR and defending U.S. policy, and a head honcho who refuses to run a story because it's not "well-balanced."
After its premiere at Sundance, Magnolia Pictures secured rights for Control Room's release. They were also behind the distribution of another highly controversial documentary of 2003, Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans. With a setting and time frame that occur solidly in the midst of the second Iraq war, Control Room is bound to generate substantial interest and a fair share of debate. If it's nearly as fascinating as Noujaim's debut documentary, it should also be a winner. (Kim Hollis/BOP)