On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, filmmaker Noujaim embedded herself with representatives of Al-Jazeera, the Arab-language equivalent of CNN, at the international press corps HQ in Qatar to witness the inner workings of the much-maligned network. What are their motives? Do they adhere to different standards of journalism than their Western counterparts? This engaging doc about the nature of spin offers surprising answers.
At a time of war, truth is often the first casualty. Noujaim, a Harvard-educated Egyptian-American with one film to her credit ("Startup.com") sought to know more about the Al-Jazeera operation, and she couldn't have picked a more pivotal moment to visit. Speaking with the station's producers — like cigar-munching wit Samir Khader, who at one point jokes that he'd take a job at Fox if they offered him one — and U.S. Army press liaison Lt. Josh Rushing, a true believer in the war's humanitarian purpose, tells us more about the manufacture of news information than a dozen Noam Chomsky books. It all depends on who's in the "Control Room."