Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it I will.
I know it seems a little odd to be doing a film that has been out for a while but this is the benchmark for a little change in format. I will review old movies as well as new ones: I am the movie ENCYCLOPEDIA aren't I? Well we watched this film in my Intro to mass media class and I was supposed to write a review on the movie: I figured "Hey if Im gonna turn in a review I might as well let my readers see what it is. So you can pardon me if it sounds a little foreign, my blog speak and paper speak are quite different. Oh well hope you enjoy.
Control Room (2004), a film by Jehane Noujaim, showcases the opening days of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 from the perspective of Al Jazeera, an Arab news network, and its reporters. Al Jazeera itself was introduced in 1996 as Al Jazeera satellite. It is located in Doha, Qatar and its main producer is Samir Kahder. Al Jazeera focuses on Arab issues and concerns in a way that is extremely controversial not only to Americans but to the Arabs as well. Especially during the opening days of the Iraqi war, Al Jazeera would not hesitate to show how troops act, what people thought of the invasion as well as the aftermaths of some of the bombings. Samir (the producer) strives to show people the absolute truth without being censored, even if the images may be disturbing. He also believes that the people, American and Arab, have a right to KNOW the truth and hopefully from it will be able to take action. If they weren’t to show those pictures it would be detrimental to finding truth. Meanwhile throughout the film, when they aren’t following Al Jazeera, they follow the exploits of Lt. Rushing and his change of attitude during the war. In the beginning he believes that Al Jazeera is bias towards Saddam and is evil but as he self reflects on the idea of being moved when American soldiers die but being emotionally numb when Iraqis die, he realizes that he hates war. After we see Rushing’s change of heart and have followed Al Jazeera’s large influence on the Arab society, we see the third and most terrifying act: the friendly fire attack on Al Jazeera’s news station as well as other news stations and hotels. A few journalists die in the process but America seems to care less if an Arab dies. In the film during this time it makes the American military out to be nothing but a heartless monster that will do whatever it wants. To make up for this potentially derailing “mistake” the whole statue of Saddam falling thing happened. There was only one problem: it was staged.
This film did a really good job of showing Al Jazeera as it really is: a hardworking group of journalists who are trying to spread the truth. Despite their bias, I respect Al Jazeera’s ability to try to find truth in a pile of lies. Anyone who is trying to be a journalist can learn a lot from these guys. The film really has a nice gritty feel to it; it doesn’t feel like it was touched up or like it was trying to make things out to look like they weren’t. If the city was in rubble and there was dust and blood and crying, you saw all of it. The handicam style of everything really added an element of being in their shoes as well. So not only were you in their environment, but you also felt like you were right there with them, thinking what they think, believing what they believe. That is where the one major flaw I have with this movie comes out. Then again all documentaries have this problem. Bias. Now yes you see the bias in their news reporting but they are fully aware of that in the movie. The main problem with documentaries is they don’t always do a great job explaining both sides, making you sympathize with one and hate the other.
The commentaries from the different personalities was also extremely interesting. Hassan Ibrahim (the large man) had a true belief in the American constitution in the beginning and throughout the film you see that belief slowly slip away and you see his earning to know what all is going on. Meanwhile Samir is trying to keep a smile on his face and a business-like perspective on the whole thing. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind at all and if things aren’t going right or you bring on a bad guest, you hear all about it later. But the most interesting of all is Rushing. He has this hard headed America is always right and never wrong mentality and is one of the first to say and think that Al Jazeera is full of crap. He thinks they are extremely bias and always wrong. But like I said before in the opening paragraph, once he sees the dead Iraqis and the dead Americans, you really see a transformation. He talks slowly and surely and you see in his face the shock and awe at what is coming out of his mouth. His numbness towards the death of Iraqis astounds him. And when he utters “It makes me hate war,” coming from a Lieutenant in the marines, it’s a real mind blower. But the film really lets you take everything in. That’s one of the other big things I like about it is that you really feel this sense of absorbance. The movie isn’t very fast cuts, Michael Bay-esque, but slow and steady and when you hear bombshells like the hate war comment or see the missile hit the studio or the statue being pulled down and its aftermath, you really feel like you are watching and processing it right along with them.
But this movie also brings up a giant question to American viewers: Should we see authentic images of war’s effects? You know what I think? Definitely. I think, not only as Americans, but as people, we have the right to see and know the truth. If that means seeing mangled and dead bodies in fiery ash then so be it. “But what if it offends somebody?” Good. That means its doing what it’s supposed to be doing: getting a response out of us. If it moves us or disturbs us than that means the message we need to get is being put into our heads. Would you rather have it that we stay in the dark forever thinking that the world is sunshine and rainbows? That is no way to live. We should not be sheltered from the knowledge we deserve. As the old saying goes, Knowledge is Power, and if we have the ability to hear the truth and see these images, then our power is potentially limitless.
MY VERDICT: OWN IT