Filmmakers Jehane Noujaim
and Hani Salama discuss "Control Room" and
Look Inside Al Jazeera's Coverage of the Unfolding Iraq War
I think that if you talk to people in Al Jazeera, they think that
maybe that’s what is threatening—the inability of governments to control
the editorial decisions of the channel. There were rumors that the
formation of the channel was initially helped along by American think
tanks. -- Jehane Noujaim
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Room," newly released on DVD and a BuzzFlash premium,
is a documentary that leaves you both hopeful and despondent. BuzzFlash
spoke with filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Hani Salama about that paradox
in August. Harvard educated Jehane Noujaim, the daughter of an American
mother and Egyptian father, filmed in Qatar just before the commencement
of the Iraq War. The footage at the Al-Jazeera headquarters and vicinity
of Central Command is riveting. As both the film itself and our interview
explore, even the westernized Al Jazeera journalism professionals, who
should be our friends and allies, have been marginalized by a radical,
extremist White House and one-party U.S. government.
* * *
BuzzFlash: You did a marvelous documentary on the
cusp of and during the Iraq war. One of the first things the viewer learns
is that Central Command [CENTCOM] -- the set that was actually designed
by people from Hollywood for the Bush administration -- was only 20 kilometers
from Al Jazeera.
Jehane Noujaim: Yes, we got there and realized it really wasn’t
very far. It was about 15 miles away. Al Jazeera was in the center of the
city, and Central Command was on the outskirts, more in the desert outside
the city. Doha is the city and Qatar is the country.
BuzzFlash: How would you describe the government? Pro-American? Neutral?
Jehane Noujaim: The government of Qatar is probably considered the
most pro-American government in the Middle East. It’s headed by the
Emir of Qatar -- quite a progressive thinker. He just worked on developing
a constitution for his people, and women are voting, as of last year. He
was the instigator behind Jazeera, a channel, which he was hoping would have
the most uncensored news and allow for freedom of speech in the Arab world.
Al Jazeera started as a government funded channel, so the journalists see themselves
as similar to the government funded CBC or some of the government funded channels
of France, Germany, and Italy. But they wanted to be completely independent
from the government after five years. Initially they started with a grant from
the government of Qatar. The idea was spearheaded by the Emir of Qatar. He
was looking for people to start the channel who had a good background in journalism.
At the same time, the BBC Arab World Service was shut down, so a number of
journalists who had been trained by the BBC and were fluent Arabic speakers
It was a pretty perfect fit. A lot of these journalists decided to come work
for Al Jazeera, but under the condition that there wouldn’t be the same
government restrictions that they had experienced working in their home countries.
Much of journalism in the Arab world is state run. They didn’t want to
experience that again.
Hani Salama: Now they hoped to be independently run, meaning financing
from advertising, and footage sales. But they were still slightly in the
red. If you think about big companies across the Arab world that would want
to advertise with such a controversial channel, you don’t find very
many. Al Jazeera has been ostracized, criticized, and was disliked by many
Arab regimes because Al Jazeera has been so heavily critical of them. In
the Arab world, if you want to have a successful company, you often have
to have a good relationship with your government in order to get permissions
and do a lot of business in the country.
For Al Jazeera, most of the income has been footage sales to news outlets like
CNN and ABC. They have very good relationships with many of the Western networks
and they sell a lot of footage to them.
BuzzFlash: It’s good to get this background because the film
jumps right into the center of it and lets the people speak for themselves.
So, there’s a pro-Western government that is the home base for this
Hollywood movie set CENTCOM with huge plasma TVs and a very orchestrated
presentation system for news. And the U.S. government felt comfortable enough
that it went to Qatar, but it’s the same country that’s supporting
a station that the American government sees as anti-American.
Hani Salama: There is a huge irony there, and it’s part of what
attracted us to go make the film there. We were hoping to get even closer
to the office of the Emir and watch him fielding phone calls from the U.S.
Embassy and talking to the manager of Al Jazeera, because he must be playing
a balancing game.
BuzzFlash: Your film reveals some of this from the inside out. It
concentrates on the players. A main player in CENTCOM is Josh Rushing, a
stereotypical, earnest young American, but nonetheless he’s a P.R.
person. Then you focus heavily on the people in Al Jazeera, and it looks
like a Western operation. These are very attractive men and women, in Western
dress with cable news-style visuals. What is it about Al Jazeera the U.S.
finds so threatening?
Jehane Noujaim: Well, I think that the U.S. government has struggled
with what kind of relationship they could have with Al Jazeera, because,
on the one hand, they know that Al Jazeera is trusted by a huge population
in the Arab world. Even though Al Jazeera has been kicked out of many Arab
countries (meaning their offices there were closed down), many of the governments
cannot control whether the population sees Al Jazeera or not. At one point,
one of the translators says, “You know, everybody has access to a satellite
dish. A Bedouin in the middle of the desert can put up a satellite dish.” So
there really isn’t much control that Arab governments or the U.S. government
can have over what Al Jazeera shows and whether people get access to the
information shown on Al Jazeera.
I think that if you talk to people in Al Jazeera, they think that maybe that’s
what is threatening—the inability of governments to control the editorial
decisions of the channel. There were rumors that the formation of the channel
was initially helped along by American think tanks. The American government
felt like it had lost control in a way because Jazeera was showing the results
of war. They were showing the civilian casualties. They were trying to get
the interviews during the Afghanistan war with Taliban leaders. They were pursuing
what we were always taught journalists should pursue--which is to try and get
an interview with the “enemy” or the other side if you can, because
you should try to understand the perceptions of all those involved. Instead
these attempts by Al Jazeera to show another side were labeled as Anti-American.
Hani Salama: What’s threatening? You would hear a number of
different answers. You heard: They’re increasing Arab anger against
us because they’re showing these images of children who have been wounded
by bombs, or they’ve been showing the civilian casualties. They’re
making our job more difficult. At Al Jazeera, they felt like the threat was
that these images would ultimately get back to the United States, and people
would rise up after seeing these images of dead soldiers as well as Iraqi
casualties and say, “Look, we don’t want this war fought in our
names,” because of the power of the image. Some journalists at Al Jazeera
felt like the US government was worried about a similar situation to Vietnam—where
images came back and effected public perceptions of the war.
I think a struggle is going on in the U.S. government as to how to deal with
the channel. Rumsfeld has appeared on the channel. Condoleezza Rice has appeared
on the channel. Powell’s come on the channel. During the war, you had
broadcasts directly to the Iraqi people by Bush and by Blair with this red
background that I don’t think you saw in the United States. So they were
using Al Jazeera in that way. And the information minister, who was considered
a joke among the Arab population -- among the Jazeera journalists as well --
soon came out after that and said, “Jazeera keeps broadcasting American
propaganda. We’re going to kick them out of the country.” So Al
Jazeera’s answer to all this is we’re being slammed and criticized
and kicked out by all sides, so we have to be doing something right.
BuzzFlash: You mention the casualties. There are these chilling moments
several times in the film where you’re watching the feeds come in that
Al Jazeera is airing. There’s a statement by Donald Rumsfeld in which
he accuses Al Jazeera of basically faking deaths of women and children and
saying that they’re bringing bodies to sites and claiming these people
have been killed when they weren’t killed there. Rumsfeld says the
truth will ultimately come out. Liars will be caught. And of course, we’re
watching that and thinking, well, yes, Mr. Rumsfeld. Speak for yourself.
Jehane Noujaim: There’s such a strong audience reaction now
to these parts of the film that didn’t exist a short while ago.
BuzzFlash: He’s making such fraudulent claims that you know he’s
lying about the truth. We know, for instance, hundreds of women and children
in Fallujah were killed in “collateral damage” and buried in a
soccer field. And the United States says this doesn’t happen, but there’s
credible proof to the contrary. We know about the wedding massacre in Syria,
and Rumsfeld accuses Al-Jazeera of showing something that’s not true
when it is true. And he’s the liar.
There’s another ironic moment after the capture of the military unit
that included Jessica Lynch. President Bush makes a statement demanding that
American prisoners be treated with the same humaneness and consideration that
America shows toward the Iraqi prisoners.
Hani Salama: Right. That was during the summer. Many people see it
and say that it seems like we edited the yesterday. But we actually finished
editing in November of 2003, long before the Abu Ghraib prison photographs
BuzzFlash: You’ve got this on your web site, www.controlroommovie.com.
When you click on the site, one of the televisions has an account which for
us was one of the most chilling moments in the movie. The producer of Al Jazeera
is recounting a day when the Al Jazeera broadcast studio in Baghdad was attacked.
Jehane Noujaim: That’s the senior producer at Al Jazeera.
BuzzFlash: A major figure in your film.
Jehane Noujaim: One of the main figures. He was on duty the day that the
call came in for journalists saying that their office was being attacked.
BuzzFlash: As he recounts this, it’s just spine-tingling, because
he’s talking about how they became aware this was happening, and a
journalist for Al Jazeera went up to the rooftop. The senior producer describes
how they asked to turn the camera away from the journalist toward the city.
You see the American plane diving toward Al Jazeera. And this journalist
that the camera turned away from is killed in the attack.
Hani Salama: It was a very difficult moment to watch. He actually said
that the luckiest thing that happened at Al Jazeera that day was that the electricity
had gone off in the office, and they turned on the generator on the roof to
start the equipment running again. So the missiles went toward the generator
rather than to the equipment inside the office. There were about 25 people
inside the office. So instead of killing 25 people, it only killed the journalist
who was on the roof.
And then there’s the incident at the Arab TV station Abu Dabi. All of
their equipment was shot down, but nobody was killed. But their equipment was
all gunned down.
BuzzFlash: The third incident that day was the tank attack on the
Palestine hotel where many journalists were staying, and some were killed.
Jehane Noujaim: Right. It felt like there was something very strange going
on because the reports from the press conference were saying that they received
fire from the lobby of the hotel, and then the tank fired around the floor
of the hotel. The other thing was that there were 300 journalists in that hotel,
and all of those journalists reported that there was no firing coming from
the hotel. Then I talked to Lieutenant Rushing who said, “Look, why would
we ever fire at the journalists on purpose? Of course that’s going to
raise negative media attention on us.” That makes sense as well. And
it was after that - a year ago - when an Al-Jazeera reporter looked at my footage
recently -the footage of the reporter on the roof of Al-Jazeera before it was
attacked. He wondered, “Why did we have to put him in a black helmet?
Black is the color of the helmets worn by the Iraqi military. There could have
been confusion on the part of the American in the plane.” There definitely
could have been confusion, but it just seems important to investigate why all
three offices were struck.
I was trying to be as open as possible, trying to hear the different perspectives.
But it was definitely very challenging. In five hours, the three main offices
housing the unembedded journalists were hit. On the other hand, you always
hear that one can never understand the fog of war unless you experience it.
BuzzFlash: There were other incidents of journalists or camera assistants
Hani Salama: This was a dangerous war for journalists--there were journalists
wounded and killed on all sides of the conflict. There was a missile launched
in front of the Sheraton hotel where the Sahaf, the Minister of Information,
was staying. This was considered to be a warning. A TV crew was shot another
time in one of their cars. So they definitely felt a number of warnings were
given to them. Samir says at one point: I never thought it would happen again.
We’ve been working with the Americans. We’ve had Rumsfeld on our
channel. We’ve had Condoleezza Rice and Powell. We’ve been having
weekly meetings at the American Embassy. They were just so shocked that it
happened. But he said he just didn’t think it would happen again after
Kabul because the day before the liberation of Afghanistan, their offices were
bombed. I can’t remember the exact wording of the explanation, but it
was something like, “Well, Al Jazeera has been known to host enemy combatants,
which basically meant that they were interviewing Taliban leaders, so it was
a legitimate target.” That’s difficult to hear, as an American,
because a journalist should try to get as much information as they can for
their public. They should be trying to get information from the people you’re
fighting against, as well as your own soldiers--to give the public more of
an in-depth understanding of the situation.
BuzzFlash: From our perspective, one could argue it seems like they were
sending a message. We would speculate that the Bush administration was putting
a damper on journalists going out and getting stories independently and showing
men and women and families that were killed, and sort of saying, you know,
stay in line because you’re not safe either. They want this to be a war
without bodies. So if Al Jazeera, or British or American journalists or whomever
go out and record the actual carnage, from the Bush administration’s
perspective they’re betraying America because that puts a damper on their
Hani Salama: If there’s a point to the film, I think it is to put
yourself for a minute in the shoes of these Arab journalists and the people
who are watching Al Jazeera. And to hear, for example, that when their journalists
were killed, not only did they not receive an investigation or an apology,
but they were told that there was shooting coming from the offices of Al Jazeera,
of Abu Dabi, of the power site itself. This kind of response, after being shot
at, was very upsetting to the people at the channel.
BuzzFlash: You show the emotion of the Al Jazeera staff at the loss of
someone who they cared for and were close to. There were people crying. There
was a news conference afterwards. It was a very emotional part of the documentary.
Jehane Noujaim: It was a very emotional moment. The other part of it was
that while this was happening at Al Jazeera, it wasn’t only Al Jazeera
journalists that were outraged by it. It really was the Western journalists
as well, although there was a self-consciousness not to cover it as deeply
as they could have because they could be quickly blamed for being completely
consumed with themselves as journalists. At the two press conferences at Central
Command, one in the morning and one the next day at 2 p.m., a lot of questions
were asked of Vincent Brooks about what had happened the previous day. People
were still in complete confusion and anger over it. Condolence letters lined
the walls of Al Jazeera, they had letters from every Western, European, Arab
network on their walls. Then at 3 p.m., members of the press conference looked
up to the television screens in Central Command, and the troops were moving
into the center of Baghdad and to that statue. That was directly in front of
Palestine Hotel, where the tank round had just been fired the previous day.
Most of the journalists were required to move on to this breaking story, and
it was happening directly in front of their hotel windows. From Al Jazeera’s
perspective, that was planned -- they had decided to topple the statue in front
of the Palestine because it would be this moment of celebration that would
be right in front of the hotel room windows of all of the journalists that
were in Baghdad at the time.
BuzzFlash: And the senior producer deconstructs that moment, which
we’ve pointed out, as have other alternative media sites, that that
toppling of the statue was a manufactured moment.
Jehane Noujaim: The LA times also came out with an article about a
month ago saying that the toppling of the statue and the cheering around
it was orchestrated by a “psychological unit of the Army.” You
should look it up to get the exact quote. This is what we have heard outside
Al Jazeera about it being orchestrated. However, Saddam Hussein was not a
popular figure and I am sure there was dancing in the streets at his statue
being toppled. But how do you really know all the details unless you are
there? What was striking to me was not whether it was organized or not, but
just the differences in the images projected in the Arab world and in the
United States. To see the toppling of the statue on US TV, one would think
that all of Iraq was celebrating around that statue that day, but to see
it on Jazeera and other Arab channels, you saw some of the wide shots which
showed about a hundred people around the statue. You just end up with different
sides of the world having a very different understanding of what actually
took place. And that results in once again, creating huge divides in understanding
between people—when it is possible for us all to be broadcasting nuanced
BuzzFlash: When you see a larger photo of the area where the statue of
Saddam Hussein was, as the senior producer points out, you don’t see
crowds of people in the street or anything. It’s a very isolated crowd.
It’s not like suddenly, as the American media reported, Iraqis rushed
out in this great burst of freedom, of liberation, to topple the statue. It
was a relatively small group there.
Jehane Noujaim: Right. Which is not to say that people weren’t
excited that Saddam Hussein was gone, but when you saw the whole back image
of the wider shot, it was pretty empty, and it just wasn’t what it
seemed to be when you saw the pictures that actually emerged on mainstream
network television in the US.
BuzzFlash: There’s a very moving segment -- something Al Jazeera
broadcast that you didn’t see on American television at the time -- with
an Iraqi man who, in an American raid, lost six members of his family. He’s
extremely agitated and he says if this is democracy, I don’t want it.
I’ve just lost six members of my family. This isn’t worth it. And
I don’t know if it’s at that point or another, but a technician
in the control room says, to paraphrase it, I’m a moderate man. I don’t
feel strongly about anti-Americanism.
Hani Salama: I think you’re talking about the translator who actually
translates Bush mostly. He is an Iraqi who has lived and worked abroad for
many years and now works at Al Jazeera. Although he said it was his job to
translate Bush and other American figures and he treated the translation professionally,
it must have been difficult for him to watch these images of destruction from
his home country and then hear Bush talking about bringing democracy. He told
us that he felt US occupation would push moderates aside leaving room only
for extremists. Soon there will be no more room for people who speak softly
and think rationally -- people like him. He felt like the military attack was
just working to radicalize people more and more.
BuzzFlash: He says it in sort of a soft way, but it seems such a significant
moment, because you realize how counter-productive the Bush strategy has been
because these are the people America should want on its side.
Jehane Noujaim: And should be reaching out to.
BuzzFlash: And yet he’s part of a news network that the United
States Administration is continually condemning as some arm of Osama bin Laden.
Jehane Noujaim: This is what continually upsets journalists at Al
Jazeera like him because they consistently say, look, we don’t have
an American audience, we have an Arab audience so if something happens in
Iraq or in Palestine and Israel, that will quickly turn into our first story.
At the same time they have discussion shows which challenge dominant thinking
in the middle east, they have call in shows for people to express their views.
Jazeera’s point is that they are providing an outlet to question the
status quo in the Arab world, they are encouraging people to question and
debate—and this is the first step towards more democratic thinking
(even if that thinking may not always be pro-US). So their point is that
they are providing the tools which will help the US bring democracy to the
BuzzFlash: They do broadcast things that some Americans might find
objectionable. They allow commentary from the full spectrum of the Arab world,
which means people who are anti-American and maybe some who are anti-Israeli.
But that is democracy. The New York Times will allow people who were for
the Iraq war, who were against the Iraq war, who are for Bush or against
Bush. Al Jazeera is staffed by professionals. You point out more than one
incident where the issue of whether a story meets professional standards
comes up, including an almost comic scene where the senior producer berates
a production assistant for scheduling an interview with someone.
Hani Salama: Many people have come up after that scene and said: Why
did he berate him? Everything that he said turned out to be true.
BuzzFlash: He thought his bias against the administration was so strong
that it was incredible. And so here’s this senior producer of Al Jazeera
saying don’t get me a clown like that. I want someone with more credibility,
not someone who’s so over the top.
Jehane Noujaim: Also his point was this is a news show, and we should
be able to bring somebody on who’s going to give the reasons why there’s
support for the war in the United States and against the war in the United
States. Samir felt like there was too much opinion there, and too little
BuzzFlash: The point is these are serious journalists and they’re
trying to do a serious job. Tell me what you think of Rushing's statement
- again he’s providing spin, but at the same time, he is somewhat open
to alternative perspectives. He says Al Jazeera, as he understands it, is
the Fox News of the Arab world.
Jehane Noujaim: He says they appeal to an audience just as Fox News
appeals to an audience.
BuzzFlash: What’s your reaction to that comment?
Jehane Noujaim: I think that there is some
validity to both of them appealing to an audience. I think that Samir and
people in Al Jazeera would say the same thing -- that they have an audience,
and that if you don’t in some ways cater to your audience, then you’re
out of business. I do think that, because Al Jazeera is the first channel
which was really an attempt to be an independent, non-state-run voice in
the Arab world, many of the journalists there do feel a personal responsibility
to provide information from all sides. The people in the Arab world have
been spun to for a long time and have had very controlled press for a very
long time. I think Al Jazeera does feel a responsibility to show the Congressional
hearings, to show all of Bush and Rumsfeld and Powell’s speeches live,
to bring on analysts from the United States.
When I watch Fox, I haven’t seen any Iraqi analysts on. I haven’t
seen the other side as much as you’d like, although I have to say they
have had us on Fox twice, and they have said that this is a movie that people
should see. They have definitely surprised me. The difference in the Arab world
is that there’s been only one channel -- now there are a few other channels
that have sprouted up, so it’s going to be interesting to see what the
competition does. But for quite awhile, you’ve had one channel, whereas
there are a number of other channels besides Fox.
BuzzFlash: There is a moment in the film where the senior producer
says something about having a family and it being time to earn a higher wage.
He says he wouldn’t mind going to work for Fox News. Was he serious?
Jehane Noujaim: Samir can be a cynical guy, and he jokes a lot. After that,
he said, “Oh, I’d prefer CNN or maybe ABC. I like very much the
coverage of ABC.” So if you asked him now, he would say yes, that that
was a joke. But the part afterwards where he says that he would send his children
to the United States if he had the chance to is not necessarily a joke, and
it’s something that I thought was very important to bring up, because
there is a desire in the Arab world to send kids to school in the US. I get
those questions all the time-- “what is the US like?” “Do
I like it better in Egypt or the US,” People in Egypt ask me, “Your
mother’s American?” Yes, she’s originally from Indiana. Her
father fought in World War II. My uncle fought in Vietnam. “Your father
is Egyptian” Yes he is from Port Said-- “So where do you like better?” It
is an impossible question to answer-- I have strong attachments to and feel
very much a part of both worlds. But people have a fascination with what the
U.S. has to offer. As an American, it is depressing when you go to Al Jazeera
and something happens, like the offices get bombed, because that is more negative
press for the United States. People look toward the U.S. right now wondering
what is a democracy? How can we bring democracy to the Middle East? What are
elections about? We’d like to be able to elect our own leaders. We’d
like to be able to have freedom of the press. How do you do that? Does it really
BuzzFlash: And you went to Harvard -- is that right?
Jehane Noujaim: I went to Harvard-–a great experience. Fantastic
teachers--Robb Moss taught me the basics of filmmaking (followed by a wonderful
real life course through Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker when we made startup.com).
Dusan Makavejev, another wonderful filmmaker and teacher--Chris Killip, and
Jack Leuders-Booth, inspiring photographers who gave fantastic classes. Bob
Gardiner, another professor who gave me a grant to make a film when I graduated,
really gave the final push to stick with this idea of filmmaking.
BuzzFlash: We haven’t much talked about the CENTCOM side, which
you also cover a bit, though certainly the heart of the film is the Al Jazeera
staff. Lieutenant Rushing tries to be the good American, as much as he can.
Some sincerity certainly comes through his spin, and he tries to be polite
and show the virtuous side of stereotypes of the American heartland. But
he nonetheless represents the American position. Part of the compelling thing
to me, as an American watching this film, is how engaging the Al Jazeera
staff is. They’re people you would like to have coffee with. They’re
extremely bright, extremely professional, thoughtful, conscientious. The
Bush government is constantly denigrating Al Jazeera, saying Al Jazeera is
basically aligned with the enemy. I was left with the thought that if the
people who run Al Jazeera are not the people that we’re going to woo,
who is left in the Arab world to woo?
Jehane Noujaim: Exactly. And most of the people who work at Al Jazeera
actually were educated in the West.
BuzzFlash: You hear English in the control room, not just because of you,
but because it’s a bilingual group.
Hani Salama: Yes. There are many people who’ve been educated
in the West that have come to work at Al Jazeera--many of them were trained
at the BBC. I always knew this channel as a channel that has been heavily
criticized by leaders in the Arab world. So I had always understood this
to be a very revolutionary channel that was bringing a very positive element
of challenge, and a different kind of thinking to the Arab world. They also
had started these debate shows, one of the most popular of which is called
Opinion and the Other Opinion.
BuzzFlash: It’s sort of a Point-Counterpoint?
Jehane Noujaim: Yes. They debated issues like the role of religion
in the government and the role of women in society, whether women should
wear the veil. These were topics that were previously considered taboo and
were only talked about behind closed doors. When you see these issues being
debated on television, all of sudden it becomes okay to talk about them.
I remember coming back from the States in ’97, and Al Jazeera had been
denounced in ’96. And it was playing across every coffee shop in Cairo
and in very poor areas where I used to volunteer. People were pooling their
money together to buy satellite dishes so that they could watch these debates
happen. It was very exciting and it was heavily criticized by many of the
governments. I think the Egyptian president ended up visiting Al Jazeera
at one point and said, “All this noise from this tiny little matchbox?” So
it was only much more recently that it ended up being criticized by the U.S.
government. And to me, that was such a surprise because I really thought
that it was something that the U.S. would support.
BuzzFlash: After watching the film it seems to me Al Jazeera poses
a three-pronged threat to the Bush administration. It reveals images that
the Bush administration doesn’t want out there of the dead, and it’s
not “on message” with the Bush administration. The third thing
is, the Bush administration probably regards them as a threat because they’re
a threat to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and many of the governments that the
U.S. supports. Even though, from an Arab perspective, they’re a news
channel in the spirit of Tom Paine and democracy, as much as Bush gives lip
service to democracy, the Bush Administration might regard real democracy
as a threat.
Hani Salama: Right. And that is really damaging for any attempt at winning
over the hearts and minds of the Arab world. If their solution is for Arabs
to switch to al-Hurra, which is U.S. funded, it won’t work. People just
don’t trust it yet. They turn it on and they feel like the stories that
they want to hear are not being aired; they’re not concentrating on the
stories that they want to hear. I’ve heard that people do turn it on
for the American perspective. There is definitely an interest in the American
perspective, the administration’s perspective. But that doesn’t
mean people trust it for their main news source. But it is of course a benefit
to the people to have another channel, another view, another source of competition
to keep the quality high. Josh Rushing would often say that there was a need
to engage with the Arabic speaking stations and he was hoping that there would
be more translators around to help understand what was being said on the stations.
Jehane Noujaim: Rushing, was somebody who was very genuinely concerned
with engaging the other side. He wrote memos to his office at the time saying
that his office should figure out a way to work with Al Jazeera. He got flak
from it. He gave a couple great interviews after the film came out, but was
forbidden to give any more interviews until leaving the marines. At one point
he said Al Jazeera shows images that are very difficult to look at, but that
these are actually the results of war. He said, “You look at these
images, and it makes you sick, and it gives you a stomach ache, but it should
give you a stomach ache and make you sick because that is what war does.
You should be reminded that war is not really clean. People should know what
we’re sending our troops off to do.” I thought that was a very,
very valuable statement to make. It is so strange that we do not even see
the coffins of our troops being taken off the plane. The Brits do a televised
service for their dead—and our journalists are not allowed to even
photograph the flag draped coffins, as if it is somehow shameful. I find
that disrespectful to the people that have died for our country.
Rushing felt like the images of the dead European soldiers as well as the Iraqi
civilians should be shown, because we should all know what we’re sending
our troops out to do, and we should be very aware of that. He was somebody
that I actually very much looked up to and admired. I am in great admiration
that the resistance to his words has not stopped him. He left the marines as
of October 8th because he did not feel that he should be silenced. He is now
doing interviews and speaking with the public nationwide. He has even spoken
of going back on Al Jazeera to discuss the US position in the Middle East.
His motivations--to increase understandings on both sides--are in the right
place and that is inspiring to see.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
* * *
Get Your Copy of "Control
Room" from BuzzFlash.com.
Winner, Grand Jury Prize for Best Film, 2004 Full Frame
"Important and moving. Should be essential viewing,
not just for news junkies but for regular people who want to expand their
of how the U.S.
is seen in the Arab world." -- Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
Thumbs Up!" -- Ebert & Roeper
The critically acclaimed CONTROL ROOM
takes a controversial inside look at the Media surrounding the Iraq War.
Amidst the ongoing
cultural clash between Western and Arab worlds, CONTROL ROOM looks
through the prism of satellite television’s impact on how viewers receive
worldwide – from news providers, driven by the patriotism of their
audiences, to Army information officers, driven by military objectives.
ROOM is a seminal documentary that explores how Truth is gathered,
presented and ultimately created by those who deliver it.
DVD Special Features: Commentary by Director Jehane Noujaim, Cinematographer/Producer
Hani Salama, Central Command Press Officer Josh Rushing and Al Jazeera
staffers Hassan Ibrahim and Samir Khader. More than 50 Deleted Scenes,
and Arabic subtitles* (subject to change).