Control Room

2004

Documentary

0
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 95%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 87%
IMDb Rating 7.6 10 5104

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
December 02, 2021 at 11:09 AM

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720p.WEB
824.48 MB
1280*714
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 30 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by SnoopyStyle 6 / 10

from the other side of the wide divide

It's March 2003. Al Jazeera is riding a new wave of Arab satellite TV with 40 million viewers. This documentary follows the channel as they cover the second Iraq War up to the Americans arriving in Baghdad after one of their reporters is killed by an American bomb.

This has many of the behind-the-scenes stuff expected from this type of movies. Not all of it is that compelling or that surprising. There is obvious bias from all sides. Again that's not surprising and gets tiring after awhile. It is slightly humorous to see the Arab journalists almost dismissing the idea of objectivity and desperately trying to explain away the media stories coming out of Centcom. In the end, it shows the cultural divide and the impossible gap between them.

Reviewed by rmax304823 8 / 10

Perception and Substance

They are a horde of sand monkeys screaming hysterically, jumping up and down, waving their fists in the air, and they all have their heads wrapped in tablecloths stolen from Italian restaurants -- right? Well, not quite, according to this documentary from Noujaim, which focuses on the producers and staff of the much-maligned al Jaziera satellite news channel which broadcasts to the Arab-speaking world.

The reporter we get to know best, a big guy who looks like Luciano Pavarotti in makeup for a performance of Otello, and who speaks English fluently (his wife is an Englishwoman), is like most other reporters of whatever channel or nationality -- practical, cynical, and good humored. He doesn't give us an anti-American diatribe. He's way too cool for that. He's watching, for instance, the tape of a demonstration in which yelling, leaping children surround some Americans entering Baghdad and he's listening to the English translation. The children are shouting "Allah" something or other and the on screen translator comments that the kids are saying "God be with you Americans!" The reporter smiles and turns to the camera, explaining that what the kids are actually saying is, "God damn you Americans." He has a keen sense of irony.

So does another translator who is watching Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech on live TV and giving the Arabic translation to the audience. When Bush is finally finished telling us how successful we and our allies have been, how the war has ended, the translator shuts off his mike, lowers his face and wordlessly chuckles.

At another point, after the victory, Iraqis are seen breaking into a bank, emerging which armfuls of money, which they then gleefully tear up and toss in the air. Watching this on TV an al Jaziera staff member remarks that these are Kurds and they're tearing up the dough because it's the new Dinar with Saddam's picture, and in that region they've always used the old pre-1991 currency. At the same time, elsewhere, an American newsman (from CNN, I think) is watching the scene and calls to someone to find out what it is these looters are tearing up. Is it money, or what? And when asked at a briefing to explain why these looting incidents are going on in the destroyed and chaotic cities, an American general replies that this was going on under the noses of the Iraqis themselves. (In other words, some Iraqi authority should have put a stop to it.) But the film makers are mistaken if they think that most of this isn't already known to American audiences. The problem isn't so much that American audiences were ignorant of some of these things, but that they preferred the perception to the substance. Take the concept of victory. The perception is "the liberated people" pulling down a statue of the reviled Hussein. That's part of the substance too. Another part of the substance is videotape of dead and bloody American bodies sprawled on a cement floor, a part that, like the coffins arriving at Dover AFB, we'd rather exclude. Al Jaziera showed both scenes.

I don't mean any of this to sound too simple minded. It's a thorny problem. Exactly how do you edit the substance so that what appears in the media is acceptable -- in the sense that it doesn't get you fired or killed. The journalist's code of course is to be "objective," but objectivity itself depends on perception.

A sympathetic Marine captain, seen in several interviews, doing his best to answer unanswerable questions, poses the conundrum in its most basic form. Something like, "I was watching American TV and saw shots of these bodies of dead civilians, including kids, and I thought, that's too bad. Then I ate dinner and went to sleep. Recently I was watching al Jaziera and saw shots of bodies of dead American GIs, and I really got MAD. Then I thought, maybe THEY feel the same way." The officer is a surprisingly earnest guy in an impossible job. He's trying to learn Arabic, is terribly flattered when asked to come home and have dinner with Pavarotti and his English wife. His happiness at being treated amicably is almost palpable.

If you put the wrong material on the air, you're liable to pay for it. Al Jaziera's headquarters in Baghdad was bombed during the war and one of its reporters killed. Another Arab news agency was bombed at the same time, and a hotel too. The financial reporter from al Jaziera was banned from the New York Stock Exchange too. (Not mentioned in this film.) We're going to have to wait for another documentary to explain the reasons for that, I guess.

Reviewed by Quinoa1984 8 / 10

life on the front-lines, by way of Al-Jezeera, and the American invasion of Iraq

Let's face facts folks, especially at this point if not the should-have-been start: American invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. This isn't the core message of Control Room, but it's certainly all encompassing for what Jehane Noujaim wants to say in her documentary Control Room. The argument could be made- and of course has- that Al Jezeera is a militant television network playing to an Arab base, that it shows people damning America all the time and praising Alah and so on and so forth. For the latter I can't say how much is truly shown, even by the documentary's scope. But for the former, the context can't be taken lightly: whether or not it is propagandistic isn't quite the point. When a country gets attacked by another country, it's hard to continue to find praise for the offensive side (and, as we see later in the film, Al-Jezeera was attacked by American planes specifically). Is her perspective meant to show bias? Maybe, maybe not. It's there in plain sight, how much to s*** things went following the American invasion, and yet side has to be taken into question, media, military, civilian.

There's plenty of questions to ask by the end of the film, even in a form that isn't with the best production values or the firmest visual hold. Control Room is also terrifying in hindsight- if this is where we were at in going into Iraq (I saw this film in cinemas as the time one week before Fahrenheit 9/11 was released), what about today? It might be even more intriguing to see a follow-up documentary to Control Room, where one sees what has happened some half a decade (and deceased hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives later and thousands of Americans) down the line. But for now, it's a story set in the midst of a conflict established by the Americans to get Sadaam Hussein out of power - and thus throwing the country into a tailspin. And all throughout we're put through the prism of media, of inquiry, of a search for the facts in the midst of two systems shown in the film: American journalism (we see American military interviewed) and Arab journalism, and each side in dialog and argument, with location footage interspersed.

In a way it's a dense film in just its 84 minutes. This might be Noujaim's main strength is the accumulation of points of view, of perspectives. It's not just pat a statement to make that Control Room takes the side of the Iraqi's and that's it. There's also accountability taken in. There's an fascinating cross-section that reveals some of Bush's hypocrisy (not hard to do, and there's such an abundance, but just one instance for example), where Bush says that "the people of Iraq will control their own destiny... they will not just say they were following orders." Cut to some footage of Americans, in possible dire straits, being asked by Iraqi's why they're in Iraq. "I'm just following orders," they all say. Is it America, or just Bush? Is it just Sadaam, or a whole mix of Iraqi's that have to be seen through the prism of the media coverage? What is really propaganda?

Control Room, ultimately, isn't the greatest of documentaries, mostly in a form that bounces around with the only structure with Bush at the start with his message of "watch out, Iraq, we're attacking now!" to the disgusting message on the Aircraft carrier at the end. But it is an important one, almost like an early, crucial appendage to the more recent No End in Sight. If only for a moment can we have a view into the first huge cluster-f*** of the century, Control Room has a purpose.

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