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:: Control Room

News is not so much a question of truth as it is of perspective, according to Control Room, the latest documentary about the war in Iraq. Award-winning filmmaker, Jehane Noujaim, takes a balanced look at Al-Jazeera’s portrayal of the war to its 40 million viewers around the Arab world and raises questions about America’s own coverage.

In its eight years of broadcasting, the independent news service, Al-Jazeera, has made many enemies despite its ambition to cover “all viewpoints with integrity and balance”. Banned is several Arab nations for its pro-western, democratic ideals, it was also condemned by US officials as the “Osama Bin-Laden’s mouthpiece” for broadcasting sensitive material and interviews with known terrorists. This documentary follows its reporters as they, like all the world’s media, try to tell their audience about the huge story unfolding in Iraq.

Between them and the story stands Lieutenant Josh Rushing, who has the unenviable role of media liaison officer for the American military. At US central command, or CENTCOM, he is the man with all the answers. He fiercely defends the American occupation and has serious concerns about the Al-Jazeera’s anti-American reporting. Yet, as the war progresses, the open-minded Lt Rushing begins to wonder if he and America might have biases of their own.

The brotherhood among journalists at CENTCOM is fascinating to watch as they struggle with all the same questions of ethics, journalistic integrity and possible censorship. When Al Jazeera’s devotion to free speech makes them a military target, journalists band together to support them, regardless of politics or nationality.

This fly-on-the-wall documentary also uses interviews, and television news clips to examine the issue. This gives a well-rounded selection of ideas and the impression of an organisation that may disapprove of America’s war but admires the ‘American dream’.

Control Room does contain disturbing footage, so be prepared. Though probably no more graphic than our evening news, Al Jazeera’s closeness to the action and their different perspective, means that images are often emotive and more likely to include American and civilian casualties.

An Arab-American herself, Jehane Noujaim questions, but does not pass judgement on either side of the debate. Control Room provides a valuable look at the “Coalition of the willing” through Arab eyes, and attempts to bridge the gap between the two colliding cultures.