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<I>Control Room</I> Seeks to Sway Votes, Minds

19 Oct, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

With the war in Iraq central to next month's presidential election, Lions Gate Home Entertainment Oct. 26 is rushing to retail Control Room ($26.98 DVD). Documentary filmmaker Jehane Noujaim's credit-card financed expos? explores the impact of cultural bias on the media.

The 84-minute film, which looks inside the controversial Arab news service Al Jazeera, has taken in $2.5 million since its theatrical release in May, garnering critical acclaim from outlets including the Wall Street Journal, which called it “Essential viewing ... for regular people who want to expand their understanding of how the U.S. is seen in the Arab world.”

The DVD contains commentary from Noujaim, discharged U.S. military central command press officer Josh Rushing and members of Al Jazeera.

Although her film did not aim to hinder President Bush's re-election like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Noujaim changed her mind after watching the first two presidential debates.

“It astounds me that Bush is seen as very strong on foreign policy issues, Iraq and protecting the United States from terrorism,” Noujaim said. “If this film does anything, it shows the break in [international] relationships and the increasing anger toward the U.S. because of this war.”

The idea that force is reducing the threat of terrorism in the United States is a misguided notion fueled largely by 9/11 and fear, she said.“The fact [is] we have reached this state of our foreign policy where we [are determined to] defeat these insurgencies without really even thinking who these insurgents are,” she said. “You can't deal with the problem unless you know the problem.”

Noujaim hopes her DVD will call attention to how foreign policy influences foreign perception of the United States. “The [political and cultural] naivet? in the U.S. is going to destroy us and our standing in the world,” Noujaim said.

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