“The Control Room” is Jehane Noujaim’s absorbing documentary about
the assignment of war correspondents in Iraq.
Both sobering and unsettling, it is also an uplifting portrait of
reasonable men under intense pressure trying hard to get to the truth of things
as they report the war to the world. Unlike
“Fahrenheit 9/11” which is one man’s political opinion piece, this movie
burrows inside the minds of a group of journalists covering the war as American
bombs fall on Baghdad.
As the film opens, Iraquis are listening to a live
broadcast of President Bush declaring war on their country.
A senior reporter for Al Jazeera says of the middle east , “Something
has to shake these rigid societies; wake up, wake up, there is a world around
you.” Another comments that after
the failure to find WMD, the Americans focus entirely on the search for Saddam
Hussein. As the bombing increases,
U.S. spokesmen point proudly to the fact that they are using “precision
bombing” rather than the “carpet bombing” that annihilates civilians.
The powerful graphic footage that follows is an intense cry that war is
never justified. We watch a country
being laid waste, its citizens bloodied and suffering and remember that our
politicians told us we would be greeted with flowers.
Hassan Ibrahim, an Al Jazeerah correspondent, formerly of the BBC asks,
“Who is going to stop the United States?”
Answering himself, he replies, “The United States is going to stop the
United States. I have tremendous
faith in the U.S. Constitution.” The
dialogue that runs through the film between this deeply intelligent older man
and an equally intelligent young American press officer, Lt. Josh Rushing is
breathtaking in its rarity. Two
open minds weigh and balance what they see before them.
Apparently Lt. Rushing’s open mind has cost him his job.
The U.S. Military has ordered him not to talk to the press again.
In a violation of the rules of war covering foreign correspondents, an
American missile attack on an Al Jazeeraah office kills a correspondent we have
come to know on camera as Tarek. After
his death, Tarek’s wife makes a public plea, “Where is your conscience? Where is your humanity?”
Another Iraqui says with great sadness, “The Americans are radicalizing
the country. There won’t be any
room for quiet men like me.”
Lt. Rushing and Mr. Ibrahim embody the idealism and humanity this war
needs if it is ever to be resolved. The
journalists at Central Command, including Al Jazeerah, are a lesson to people
everywhere that war correspondents put themselves in constant danger in order to
report the truth, as they see it, to the citizens of their countries. They dig, and talk, and think, trying unfailingly to avoid
falling into the trap of spin simplicity. This
powerful film is Ms. Noujaim’s plea to Arabs and Americans to listen carefully
to these people who are working – and often dying – in order to bring them
the reality of a controversial war.
Copyright (c) Illusion
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