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Control Room
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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Somewhere Betwixt East and West Lay the Truth

Author: fwomp from United States
25 October 2005

It's pretty tough to review and rate a documentary like this. Mainly because it's taken almost solely from an Arab perspective: an Arab news media, living in a deeply Arab culture, and run by Arab men and women.

That's not to say that what we see on NBC and Fox News here in the States is any less insightful. Skewed toward the Lazy-Boy recliner news watcher, the American news media is just as blind to its prejudices and half-truths as many other media outlets around the world.

So when I read reviews of this documentary and they lambaste it for being "one-sided", I have to shrug and say, "Yeah, so what news media do you watch?" Covering the Iraq War, Al Jazeera focused on what happened and was happening from inside Bahgdad. A pretty risky proposition, a move that ends up killing one of their correspondents. Looking at the Ba'athists and other political affiliations within the country was interesting and, again, a bit skewed.

The anti-American sentiment can be felt smoldering under the surface of Al-Jazeera, too. But whether this is simply a survival strategy (they do have to live there after the Americans are gone) or real is anyone's guess.

This IS a great documentary to watch, though. Being spoon fed Fox News' version of the war is just as blinding as Al Jazeera's. But after watching CONTROL ROOM, I know now that somewhere between the American TV reports and Al Jazeera, the truth does lie.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A good documentary to get an idea of the other side of the story

Author: nola_rice from Mexico City, Mexico
11 October 2005

I just watched this documentary and I personally found it very interesting. I'm a communications major and one thing they tell you at school is that if you want to know what's going on in a specific country, you should watch that country's news. I know in war time there is no such thing as a good side or a bad side but what this movie shows is the Iraqi side, the one neither Fox, CNN or BBC will ever show. I have been against this war from the very beginning and every time I see images of all those innocent civilians, specially children, either murdered or hurt, it just breaks my heart. Although I'm not American, I also feel for those innocent soldiers who are sent there to fight for a cause they believe in, a cause that in my opinion, is nothing but an greedy, selfish, crazy man's goal. I believe the American people should watch this documentary, it may not be the absolute truth, but it can help them understand the other side of this horrific story, the one their local news, CNN or Oprah Winfrey wont show.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Control Room

Author: willib3 from United States
16 May 2005

The act of war has been taking place for thousands of years. Over these years the goal has always remained the same; to win. To achieve victory one use to have to be the biggest, strongest, and most powerful. The rule has been that the country with the most fire power generally is the most successful. Now while this is still usually the case, there is a relatively new weapon that has begun to level the playing field. It is a weapon that most all countries have access to and can affect millions in minutes. It is a weapon that can moralize, enlighten, destroy, and confuse a nation. It is a weapon of the people. This powerful weapon is TV news; one of the leading tools in warfare today.

Control Room is a film that captures the role of the media and TV news in the art of modern war. The film focuses on the Al Jazeera news network, the most popular and controversial news network in the Middle East. The documentary showcases the influence and usage of propaganda, both U.S. and Arab, in the Iraqi War. The film does this by interviewing Al Jazeera reporters and staff. Interviews with U.S. soldiers also make their way into the movie. Two sides to the story are always presented, often with argument. Some of the most interesting parts of the film are when an Al Jazeera reporter and a U. S. soldier discuss propaganda aspects of the war. Both have solid arguments and valid points. Their discussions reveal the fact that propaganda is not secret and it isn't something that the media and military is in denial about. In fact the film acknowledges that much of the war is fought through the TV using propaganda.

Some of the most compelling images in the film are of the Iraqi people. Images of women and children crying, bleeding, and cursing the U.S. leave a lasting impact. Are these images real? Or were they created or misused to stir up certain emotions in the Arab world? These are the kinds of questions that Control Room has you asking. The film also examines American propaganda, such as in the event of Saddam's statue being torn down. Everyone has seen the footage of one of Saddam's giant statues being torn down by the Iraqi people and an American flag being raised. Were all those young guys just sitting around in the square at that certain moment carrying a U.S flag? Or did the U.S. army plant them there and give them an American flag to fly? Either way, what the world saw were images of the Iraqi people tearing down the statue of their leader. They were images that created a sense of victory for the United States.

It is the images of war that are so powerful, emotional, and disturbing. But it is also the images of war that we need to be leery of. People tend to think pictures and videos equal proof and it's these beliefs that the TV news stations are counting on. Control Room brings this to our attention. Straight from the mouths of the reporters and soldiers come the details and levels of the propaganda. The reasons behind certain images and footage becomes clear. Millions of Arabs throughout the Middle East watch Al Jazeera, believe in it, and trust it. The power it holds is incredible.

"They are trying to manage the news in an unmanageable situation", is one of the most captivating quotes of the movie and is spoken by a fed up Al Jazeera news reporter. This quote sums up the message of Control Room. The TV news is no longer just reporting the news, they are managing it. News no longer just happens, it is created. This is a growing concern, and one that David Perlmutter writes about in his essay entitled "Living-Room Wars". Perlmutter comments on how wars are now fought on large part by the media and on TV. The misconception that we are getting the straight and true facts when we watch the news is huge problem. Viewers hold a false perception of how informed they are. When viewers see footage of something they tend to believe that the footage they are seeing is the same as what they are being told it is. Perlmutter discusses how this isn't always the case and certain footage is often chosen to entice certain emotions. Control Room gives us a sense of how strong these emotions can be and the levels of propaganda that can accompany them. It is a movie that makes you think about modern war and how much of what you know about it is actually true.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

interesting and good movie

Author: wellsortof from United States
7 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first thing I did after seeing this movie was tell my girlfriend to see it too, because I wanted to talk about it. This is definitely not a perfect documentary, but it is very engrossing and worth the dialogue. Most of the comments I've read captured the essence of the movie and the plot/situations, so I'll comment on a few that I hadn't read about much in depth.

One point that should not be lost is the fact that Al-Jazeera has only been around for 8-9 years, not the 225 years that free press has been around in the U.S. One commentator in the movie made a point to say that the Arab world is still quite young and inexperienced within the structure of non-biased reporting. Someone watching this movie should keep that in mind.

Spoiler* The conversation between an Arab and European reporter was intriguing from a point of view perspective. The European was giving the Arab a short lesson on interviewing technique, and trying to make it clear that the Arab reporter needs to come into the interview as unbiased and contented as usual. The Arab, for as long as the interview lasted, was trying to make his case that he was angry, and it seemed clear wasn't ready for the disassociation needed for unbiased reporting.

As another commentator witnessed, I also saw the Daily Show interview with Hassan Ibrahim, and he mentioned that the Army Lieutenant he conversed with throughout the movie was the first one he's ever known who was willing to have a dialogue and wasn't short with Ibrahim. I have to believe the Army PR guy is in a tough position, and I certainly wouldn't want that job.

My reason for my vote of 7 and not higher is that the documentary lacked the backstory and finish I would have liked. I think it's fair to criticize the movie as being just a series of scenes in the life of Al Jazeera and lacking enough commentary and perspective. But it's definitely worth seeing and certainly worth talking about after.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Teaches important lessons, but you have to want to be taught

Author: Angeneer from Athens, Greece
5 November 2005

This movie introduces us to the star network of the Iraq war, Al Jazeera. Its coverage was our only source of information about the "other" side and this, at numerous occasions during the documentary, seemed to enrage US officials.

You can see at once the class, professionalism and quality of Al Jazeera top journalists and compare it with the arrogance and covert racism of their mainstream US networks counterparts (although I'm sure they were not the cream of the crop, but rather preselected from the rightmost end of the spectrum). These scenes interleave with scenes of real people facing real tragedies, caused by this very war. If it wasn't so much tragic, it might be somewhat funny, to see how void of true meaning certain rehearsed answers of CentCom military spokesmen actually are.

The director makes every effort to assure us that his documentary is not anti-American in general but targets specific policies. He interviews an American Al Jazeera reporter, who sounds extremely reasonable, CentCom speakers are shown with a positive humane light, multiple assertions that there is trust in the US Constitution and the American people are made and even the Al Jazeera director says that his dream is to move to the States and his kids to get a good American education.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

History is written by the victors

Author: wfjgcinet from United States
10 November 2006

The earlier reviews of this film were quite rich and detailed. There is little to add.

Except it is now more than three and a half years after the historic span depicted in the film. By coincidence, I viewed this for the first time today, the day after Donald Rumsfeld had to fall on his sword. Mr. Rumsfeld's verbatim remarks in press conferences were included in several key sections of Control Room.

I think it is particularly worthwhile to view this now, if one is interested in growing insights into how history really unfolds. I don't think the film will look the same now as it did to many who viewed it (and commented on it) two years ago. It struck me as quite extraordinary. See how it strikes you.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

a solid documentary about a very important news network

Author: Colette Corr from Melbourne, Australia
14 March 2006

Control Room is the latest film from the Egyptian-born Harvard-educated director of, Jehane Noujaim.

It follows the only independent news service in the Middle East, Al Jazeera, for six weeks, starting one week before the US invasion of Iraq in 2004.

The war's press coverage was delivered from US military Central Command in Qatar, right near Al Jazeera's HQ. One of the things Control Room demonstrates is just how manufactured the news stories of the war were.

We hear from several Al Jazeera employees (including women), some Western journalists and also from US Lieutenant Josh Rushing, the idealistic Central Command Press Officer.

There are several reasons why Control Room is compelling viewing. Firstly because Al Jazeera is an independent satellite service in a culture which does not have a history of freedom of the press.

Also, because both the US Government and many Middle Eastern governments condemn Al Jazeera for broadcasting propaganda, it reminds me of the conundrum often facing Australia's ABC. Yes, Al Jazeera gets it wrong sometimes, like any other broadcaster, but they are attempting and I'd suggest, often succeeding, at delivering relatively balanced journalism.

One of the things most criticized about Al Jazeera was for broadcasting messages from Osama Bin Laden. But I think just about any network that had that exclusive would do the same thing, as demonstrated by so many networks quoting the Bin Laden tapes. Unfortunately this is not covered in the film, but another Al Jazeera technique criticized in Control Room is their decision to broadcast footage of US military hostages, including the dead. As an NBC correspondent said, they just don't do that kind of thing in America. But it's very common for Western viewers to see and be shocked by horrific images on television. By broadcasting footage of these US soldiers, at least some of the Al Jazeera demographic would empathize with the suffering Westerners. Before that, much of their footage was of how Iraq's civilian population was suffering. In hindsight, now that it's been revealed that the US tortured prisoners, Al Jazeera's stance seems vindicated.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

See this instead of Fahrenheit 911

Author: csymeonides from Nottingham, England
12 August 2005

An absolute must-see documentary that gives an incredibly illuminating view of the Arab world. It's not just about Al-Jazeera, it's mainly about the war in Iraq and the perspectives of different people about it. The "characters" are so interesting: the US army press officer that comes to see the other point of view, the Al-Jazzera senior produce that wants to send his kids to study in America... There are so many amazing moments, of which perhaps the most important and moving is the killing of an Al-Jazeera journalist by a US bomb.

The film is balanced, gripping and excellent in terms of picture and sound editing. See it if you want to learn more about Iraq, the Arab world, the Muslim world, the war reporters and the soldiers they interact with. See it if you want to get facts and multiple perspectives, as opposed to the single perspective given by films like Fahrenheit 911.

Rating: 9/10

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A New Point of View

Author: Tristie Tajima from Seattle, WA
14 May 2005

In "Living Room Wars," author David D. Perlmutter, a senior fellow of the Reilly Center for Media and Public affairs, claims that the "pretense that we are better informed than ever in history about wars in distant lands is the big lie in the television age." We live in the most powerful country in the world with the most powerful military. However, we have no true understanding of what war really is because we have the benefit of not having to experience it. Our relationship to war is completely mediated by the major media corporations in the United States. What makes "Control Room" worth seeing is that it allows Americans to see another point of view in the Iraq War.

"Control Room" helps us to see the Iraq War from the perspective of the Al Jazeera Satellite Network, a controversial, popular Arab news network. The main point of the documentary is not to convince viewers that American intervention in Iraq is right or wrong, but instead to get people thinking about the role of the media in shaping our perception and understanding of the Iraq War and whether our opinion is justified based on correct evidence or not. It is no hidden secret that the media, if manipulated correctly, can be a powerful weapon in war. The beginning of the documentary opens with a candid shot of an Al Jazeera Network executive saying that war cannot be waged without the media and that the media should be on the top of the military agenda. Perlmutter also agrees that because of the prevalence of the television, "the military could no longer completely ignore or completely censor the press, yet they would wage war under the assumption that the battle to control the content and captioning of TV pictures was decisive as campaigns in the air, sea, and land." One of the most shocking examples of the power of the media in the documentary was when the US bombed the headquarters of Al Jazeera and another Iraqi television news networks which resulted in the death of one of an Al Jazeera reporter. After the Al Jazeera headquarters was bombed the reporters who worked for them were forced to leave wherever they were because the Iraqi people thought they were "targeted" by the US military and did not want to be put in danger by aiding an American enemy. Obviously, the US military viewed Al Jazeera as a threat or it wouldn't have bombed them in the middle of the city. A US military official said the US spends massive amounts of money to buy precision bombs so they don't make mistakes on what they're bombing. The day after the bombing took place, there were native villagers who gathered to celebrate the liberation of Baghdad. However, interviews with Al Jazeera correspondents suggest that the whole celebration was staged by the US military in order to spur American nationalism. Only the foreign press was there to cover the event because Al Jazeera was forced to leave. This is a powerful example showing how the management of the media can be used fight wars. The images that we tend to see on TV in America are, as Perlmutter says, "limited, homogeneous, and leave out much of the panorama of war." "Control Room" reinforces that idea. Seeing clips from Al Jazeera television stations left me feeling more informed about the war. In the American media, the most we see of war tend to be images of liberation or of tanks rolling across empty land. On Al Jazeera, American troops are seeing busting through people's doors, cussing, and threatening them with guns. That probably happens on a regular basis. War is brutal, but the American media censors those images out and accuses the networks who don't of showing enemy propaganda. However, this is not to say that Al Jazeera is without bias. Each channel caters to their own demographics nationalism. However, as an American, I find myself at a loss trying to understand how we can pride ourselves on spreading democracy and freedoms that come along with that (including freedom of speech), yet exercise such control not only over our own media but the media of the countries we are trying to spread that democracy to as well. The most refreshing (when I say refreshing, I don't necessarily mean pleasant) about "Control Room" is its subtly. "Control Room" engages audiences instead of repulsing them with an over the top opinionated documentary. Perlmutter says one of the dangers about the visual media is that the "words can say one thing, but the pictures could be almost anything." Part of the beauty of "Control Room" is that there is no narration and there are no fancy visual effects. The simple way the documentary was filmed made me feel as if I were right there watching all of the interviews take place. The interviews felt real instead of staged and rehearsed. The director leaves a lot of room for viewer interpretation and opinion. I didn't walk away from the film feeling like I had just been told what's right and what's wrong. Whether you are pro-war or anti-war, you can find something to appreciate in the film.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:


Author: zaphara04 from United States
14 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Control Room is a remarkable documentary which examines the Arab news network al Jazeera and its depiction of the U.S. war with Iraq. It further illustrates the biases that permeate the media, which projects a skewed representation of the world to the public. Control Room is one of the first genuine attempts to show the Iraq War from an objective point of view. While U.S. media often justifies the presence of American troops in Iraq, glorifying U.S. soldiers as liberators, it becomes apparent that the Arabs perceive the United States as invaders. This film helps to shed some light on the blunders of the Bush Administration, exposing the truth about many aspects of this war that are continually filtered from American television.

The central focus of this film is to raise awareness of newscasters' blatant fabrication of information for the purpose of inducing specific reactions out of television viewers. This is well illustrated in a segment of the video where an al Jazeera employee describes how one British newscaster, in an attempt to glorify American war efforts, recorded a group of children who were chanting in Arabic about President Bush. Even though this reporter did not understand Arabic, he reported that the children were cheering for Bush, when in fact they were cursing at him. This example supports an argument made by David Perlmutter in his essay "Living Room Wars," where he analyzes the role that media plays regarding war coverage. In a portion of his essay entitled Realism, Perlmutter discusses the damaging effects of news videos. He says that the juxtaposition of images and captions often does not convey the whole truth yet, "….very few people challenge the notion that television can express falsehood" (541). The media's censorship blinds the public from the truth about the war. Most people don't think to contend the accuracy of the information that is presented to them and as a result, willingly absorb the media's propaganda.

One of the most eye-opening clips in this movie is a statement made by an Iraqi who said that American media is a leverage to induce fear in the American public. Fear is perpetuated by making Americans feel like they are under siege by the Iraq government. From an American standpoint, fear for the safety and well-being of the country justifies the Bush Administration's decision to declare war with Iraq. It is clear, however, that the vast majority of these fears are media induced and are therefore unwarranted. Several times throughout the video, Iraqis name the United States as the single greatest military threat in the world. Iraq, who admits military inferiority to the United States, has much more to fear from us than we have of them. By exposing the intent of U.S. media to instill fear into American citizens, it becomes apparent just how manipulative and hypocritical the Bush Administration truly is. There has been repeated criticism of al Jazeera for the uncensored footage of dead Iraqi civilians, stirring up anti-American sentiments and deliberately staging media to promote Arab nationalism. America accuses al Jazeera of being untruthful when U.S. media uses the exact same tactic of aiming negative sentiments at the Iraqi government to heroify the efforts of American military troops. The glorification of Americans is no new concept. James Loewen, author of "Handicapped by History" argues that the heroification of American icons, like U.S. soldiers and President Bush, stir positive sentiments in Americans and this in turn ensures a continual approval of the United States. It is distressing that we need media enhanced icons to increase our acceptance for our country. Control Room does a compelling job of illustrating the biases of war coverage. As Americans, we are sheltered from the perspectives of other countries. It is amazing how much information is butchered by the media. By the time we see the war coverage on television, it has been manipulated so much that the stories contain only a fraction of their original truthful information. By refraining from any verbal narration, the director and producer of this documentary has helped to preserve the neutrality of the film. It is interesting to see how this war is perceived on both ends of the spectrum instead of one biased account.

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