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Home: Dubai Film Festival 2004: Day 2: Control Room

Starring: Samir Khader, Lt. Josh Rushing, Hassan Ibrahim
Director: Jehane Noujaim

Truth has long since been the first casualty of the image war.  Lt. Josh Rushing, press officer at Central Command, comes the closest to stating "Control Room's" platform when he says, "It benefits Al Jazeera to play to Arab nationalism because that's their audience, just like Fox plays to American patriotism for the exact same reason…because that's their audience." This riveting documentary directed in vérité style by Jehane Noujaim is one of the best films you will see because although it is about Al Jazeera and Fox and Iraq and America it is not only about them. "Control Room" was by Jehane's own admission made for many reasons: personal, social, and moral. It's powerful because it's honest and courageous to show both sides of the coin without pretending to not taking sides. And it's an important film because it raises several hard questions and lets smart editing of newsreel footage and exclusive interviews answer them for the audience.

The plotline is stitched around the period of the Iraq War and recounts – in a clearly structured manner – the political turmoil created by the war on Iraq and the subsequent involvement of the media. "Control Room" is a film of real situations with real people like the intelligent Samir Khader, producer at Al Jazeera TV; the sharp, precise and always humourous Hassan Ibrahim, journalist at Al Jazeera; and Lieutenant Josh Rushing, an earnest and slightly bewildered young American press officer.  Instead of focussing on strictly Al Jazeera and its controversial place in the media market "Control Room" rightly concentrates on the Iraq war, using military events to springboard a discussion of truth and bias in journalism. Some of the highly contentious incidents covered include the infamous bombing of the Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad, coverage of first American POWs and the international media's chagrin and furore over the deck-of-cards by the US army. Although these and other events help in painting the canvas for us to see the US army managing news in an unmanageable situation, ultimately "Control Room" is about the priority every media outlet must place on assuming a mandate to focus on the war's "human cost" and begs to question the Western media's reluctance to do the same - by Adnan Khan

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