Control Room: The Preview

By TBS editors

During the Iraqi War (TBS 10) and its aftermath (TBS 11), TBS surveyed media under the rubric "Media on Media". "Media on Media" archived examples of how the print media reported on (primarily transnational) television coverage of the war, whether from the Arab, American, or British perspective.

This section could have been titled Media on Media on Media, for it consists of an interview with Jehane Noujaim, award-winning documentary film director, about her latest film Control Room, which has been sweeping film festivals and garnering extraordinary critical comment since its launch last January to a standing ovation at The Sundance Film Festival. The section also contains five minutes of rolling video from the film.

Control Room, to borrow from and elaborate on The Times (London) summary, is a study of the Arabic TV news station Al Jazeera as it covers the March 2003 war in Iraq from Centcom-the US military headquarters in Qatar-while at the same time dealing with its own correspondents in Iraq (one of whom will end up dead before the film is over) as well as downloading feeds from Washington DC, all via the channel's control room. There is also interaction between Noujaim and the CNN and NBC correspondents covering the war from Centcom. And to add to the mirror within mirror within mirror effect, one of TBS's own senior editors served as Middle East executive producer for the film and appears briefly at Centcom.

The Daily Telegraph described Control Room as "brilliant…compelling to watch" and the New York Times wrote that it "proves that cinéma vérité is alive and well and perhaps more potent and necessary than ever…you are likely to emerge from Control Room touched, exhilarated and a little off balance, with your certainties scrambled and your assumptions shaken."

Documentary filmmaker Vikram Jayanti, writing in The Independent listed Control Room as number four in his ranking of the ten best documentaries in recent years and described it as "one of the bravest documentaries ever made…Every American and many Brits should watch it; a transformative work of political art, like The Battle of Algiers, that changes how you see the world forever." TBS's own review by Ralph Berenger appears elsewhere in this issue.

On May 21, Control Room will have its commercial premiere in New York at the Film Forum, prior to a wider national release. TBS

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Copyright 2004 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
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