Coming to NYC’s Stranger Than Fiction series tomorrow, Tuesday, February 13:
Berlin, Hot Docs, Thessaloniki Doc, Full Frame, One World, Reykjavik, Cairo, Philadelphia
A behind the scenes look at media coverage in the Arab world during the early days of the Iraq War.
Timed by STF to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the war’s onset, this presentation of Noujaim’s provocative film is a reminder of the naiveté of the American public in the early years of the conflict and of the uncharted territory of wartime journalism in the digital age. Taking a largely observational approach, Noujaim and her team train their cameras on press coverage of the war as centralized by the US government in CentCom, their media hub in Qatar, focusing on the disjunction between the official US version of events and the reports by Al Jazeera. Dismissed by Donald Rumsfeld as anti-American propaganda, the wide-reaching and influential Al Jazeera refuses to unquestioningly parrot military sources and further enrages top brass by showing the darker, bloodier consequences of the US attacks on Iraq. Representing the US viewpoint is CentCom’s press officer, Lieutenant Josh Rushing, but even he acknowledges unconscious bias when contrasting his reaction to images of wounded and killed Iraqis vs similar shots of American soldiers. Several Al Jazeera representatives reflect on the role of their network, demonstrating skepticism about the media coverage of the war and America’s potential role in further radicalizing the Arab world. Viewed in hindsight, Noujaim’s profile proves telling and remains a compelling reminder of the pivotal role of the press to not only present the news, but to rigorously question its sources.