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Control Room is a documentary on the Arab television network Al-Jazeera, chronicling their coverage of the Iraqi war.

A friend recommended this to me, and I watched it mainly because I was curious about how the network worked, and not at all about the war, assuming that I already knew what had happened. And it did focus very tightly on the network - it introduced us to the people who produced the news, such as Samir Khader, the senior producer, an ex-Iraqi who wanted to send his children to the US to study, and Deema Khatib, a woman staff member, highly educated and eloquent, just to name two, and I found myself wishing that the discussions we see on the news today were anything near as thought-provoking as the ones they had with each other, with the American military reps. (Which isn't to say that I don't think they were biased - of course they were biased, being who they were, and of course we are biased, being who we are, and as Mrs. Khatib stated in the movie, it seems a bit pointless to harp on that. What mattered to me is that it was clear that they tried to understand the other viewpoint, and that their viewpoint was that of other educated Arabs, and one I almost never hear, living in the U.S.)


A one minute exerpt from the movie:

Khader: The Israelis and the United States are trying to change everything in this area in order to suit the presence of Israel in it, you know.

Ibrahim (a reporter): See, the problem with the middle east is that everything is an Israeli conspiracy. Everything! If a water pipe breaks in the center of Damascus it will be blamed on the Israelis, instead of blaming it on our incompetence. And don't tell me that it's Americanization. I mean, yeah, America is governating, but the rest of the world is not castrated. People are against this war, and people are resisting. And people matter.

Khader: I hope everybody in the world will get the american passport one day, so this world will be quiet.

Ibrahim: This is a defeatist attitude.

Ibrahim (sometime later): Eventually you will have to find a solution that doesn't include bombing people into submission. Democratize or I'll shoot you - this doesn't, doesn't work this way.


What I found the most compelling, however, was when the film focused on the war, the consequences of it - because I thought I knew what had happened, but I really hadn't. And, goddd. One of the most moving parts was of the day when America bombed Al-Jazeera headquarters in Iraq (along with the headquarters of two other Arab journalism outfits), stating that they had thought there were terrorists in those buildings. That the American military told such a simplistic lie and got away with it, the consequences that others had to face because of what they did. This is an exerpt from that sequence, of Samir Khader describing what happened on that day.

I shouted at them [the cameramen], telling them to move the camera out of the face of this guy [Tareq Ayyoub] because it has nothing to do with the event, the fighting, and they moved the camera.

Ten minutes later I was on the phone with another correspondent and he said that there's a plane turning over us and now it's coming towards us and it's pointing down, nose down, which means formation of attack. And the american plane came and launched an explosion against our office and the explosion killed Tareq Ayyoub.

When you announce that one of your staff was hurt you expect phone calls from the families of all these reporters and cameras.

We received only one phone call, from the wife of Tareq Ayyoub, saying, "what happened to Tareq?" We told her, "we didn't say it's Tareq". And she said, "I know, my heart tells me it's Tareq, and something happened to him."

What can you say to her?

So. It was a hell of a morning.


And just - there were so many parts like this, and perhaps what happened, what's still happening, can best be described by what Deema Khatib said: "The whole war actually is like an American movie. You know the end, you know who's the hero, you know the bad guys, they're going to die. But you still watch because you want to know how it's going to happen and what weapons they're going to use to do it."

Date: 2005-07-02 10:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] musicdiamond.livejournal.com
Fascinating. and so very sad.

Date: 2005-07-02 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fable.livejournal.com
Yeaah. If you get a chance to rent this movie, please do? It's full of parts like those, a viewpoint we so rarely get to see here, and should, and if I could, I would quote the entire thing here, because it makes me so sad and so angry. Like, there's a part near the end, you remember what we saw on television here, of Americans entering central Baghdad and Iraqi men coming to the town square and toppling the statue of Saddam, how all the networks here took that to mean that there was great support for the American troops? Here's Khaled on that: The Americans played the media element intelligently... It was a show. It was a media show. After having bombed Al Jazeera and some part of Abu Dabi television they did their show. They brought with them some people, supposedly Iraqis, cheering up. These people were not Iraqis. I lived in Iraq. I was born there, I was raised there. I can recognize an Iraqi accent.

*facepalms*

Date: 2005-07-03 01:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fable.livejournal.com
err. Khader, not Khaled.

Date: 2005-07-03 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] musicdiamond.livejournal.com
I will add it to to my list of movies to see :)

And I remember reading an article somewhere about that ridiculous media farce that was the statue of Saddam falling. The writer was commenting that he had seen revolutions before--masses joined together in the cause of removing their tyrannical dictator and all that. When those masses took to the streets, it's was powerful, it was numbers in the thousands. When Saddam's statue fell, you were barely cracking hundreds.

It's such a strange feeling to know that you're watching an invented, absurd history that will be passed on as truth (and is already being passed around as truth). ::sigh::

Date: 2005-07-03 01:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marej.livejournal.com
ohmygod!

stop watching and especially stop reviewing the movies I've been pussying out of watching for months. If you're planning to do Hotel Rwanda next I will cry, I'm warning you.

okay, seriously? great review. aiiii, i do have to watch it, i know i do. just gah. It's like you know, but then you watch and you really know and it makes all the diff, doesn't i?

Date: 2005-07-03 02:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fable.livejournal.com
stop watching and especially stop reviewing the movies I've been pussying out of watching for months. If you're planning to do Hotel Rwanda next I will cry, I'm warning you.

XDD That's actually one of the movies I've been too scared to watch. d/led it to my comp months ago, and it's sitting there, err, growing shinier by the moment of something. (Speaking of movies too scary to watch - omg, you requested Grave of the Fireflies. Do you have any idea what you're getting yourself into? *FEARS FOR YOU*)


It's like you know, but then you watch and you really know and it makes all the diff, doesn't i?

*nodsnodsnods* Yeaaah, exactly. I'm not too fond of some of the choices made in this movie - the storytelling was rather linear and the editing rough, the focus, at times, I thought was too tight (in that there were only a few individuals shown/followed, which sometimes becomes claustrophobic, and there was almost no cultural/historical context presented), but what they said, what they believed, the images that we were shown - it humanised the Arab side of the war, rather painfully so at times.

(Also, on a completely different note. XD You said this once, and I've been wondering about it - something about it being evident to you that Blue Spring was originally a manga (or at least that you were unsurprised that it was originally a manga)? Evident how? In the symbolism it used? The relationships? So curious!)

Date: 2005-07-03 03:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marej.livejournal.com
Speaking of movies too scary to watch - omg, you requested Grave of the Fireflies. Do you have any idea what you're getting yourself into? *FEARS FOR YOU*)

ha ha. I requested it, yes. Which is still a far cry fromo a. DLing it and b. actually watching it. Babysteps, baaaaaaaybeeeesteps here. Between your and Chrissie's comments, I think I'll wait till I'm in either really good unflappable mood or really really bad mood, where it couldn't get much worse, and THEN watch it.

You said this once, and I've been wondering about it - something about it being evident to you that Blue Spring was originally a manga

NOooooo. NO NO! You got it backwards! Or I explained it poorly, which is more likely. I wasn't surprised to find out that Battle Royale is based on a manga, because of how the frames change and how the story lines could be so easily put on panels. With Blue Spring, it's the complete OPPOSITE. I was totally stunned to find out that the manga came first.

The movie is just so...cinematic, you know? There's so much that comes through strictly from the experience of watching the movie, the change of colours, the tiny, miniscule changes of facial expressions. Like, okay, to use something I know we all watched bazillion times, you remember the "going down the staircase" sequence to The Redhead Kelly right? How when there's the close-up on Kujo's face and he smiles and then suppresses the yawn, still smiling? And to me, that's important, I mean the kid had just a. won himself the highest position in the school hierarchy and b. did so by PLAYING WITH HIS STUPIDASS LIFE!!!!! And he's yawning and smiling. I'm not sure it's something that's possible to do in a manga format, you know?

Have you read the manga? I'm still dithering unsure if i want to, or not.

Date: 2005-07-03 02:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fable.livejournal.com
Oh, that does make sense. And, yeah, I read the manga. Didn't really like it? The art threw me off, and I like the Kujo & Aoki & co in the movie far better. The movie added a lot "" to the story there. (Also, I was watching the director's commentary on 9 souls a few days back. Did you know that Blue Spring was filmed in just three weeks? (I think. Either that or five weeks. Whatever the case, it was filmed in very little time.) And the director said that he pretty much let Ryuhei Matsuda play Kujo however he wanted - gave him minimal direction - which makes me respect Matsuda so much more, for what he did with that role.)

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