Saturday, March 05, 2005

We Dropped a Bomb on It, and Now We Party in It

This afternoon, NPR's All Things Considered featured an interview with the director of "Gunner Palace," the new documentary about the military's gunners who set up quarters in Uday Hussein's old palace. features a clip from the documentary as well as related stories. The web site for the documentary includes diary entries from soldiers. It's getting good reviews. The NYT's A. O. Scott says:
The raw inconclusiveness of "Gunner Palace" is the truest measure of its authenticity as an artifact of our time and of its value for future attempts to understand what the United States is doing in Iraq. Over the last few years, we have been subjected to an awful lot of certainty - from proponents of the war, from its critics and even from vacillators and equivocators. "Gunner Palace," in its savage, intelligent, boisterous messiness, is a welcome antidote to the self-convinced rhetoric of pundits and politicians. Each time I have seen it, I have emerged feeling moved, angry, scared, hopeful, frustrated and dispirited - and grateful for this confusion, which is its own form of understanding.
I must be getting old or something: I'm far more interested in seeing well-made documentaries these days than most mainstream movies.

We watched Control Room (second time for me) at the documentary class I'm taking at Queens University the other night. The talk afterwards almost turned incendiary. Since that documentary concerns Iraq, too, we got into some boisterous discussion about what we're doing there, and the specifics of the documentary itself pretty much got left behind. Nonetheless, I'm guessing on another level, it felt good for many of us to have the opportunity to talk openly about our frustrations with the events unfolding there, particularly, our goverment's means to its coveted end.

If you haven't seen Control Room, you must. Whatever you thought about Al Jazeera previously, I guarantee you'll come away thinking differently. Which isn't to say that you'll be more inclined to be for or against the outfit. I think, at least, however, you'll realize that the network is a *far* more complicated beast than it's made out to be over here. One thing I noticed watching it a second time is how Al Jazeera's producer Khader and the journalist Ibrahim come off as so much more articulate and nuanced about the issues they discussed than almost all of the American reporters shown. Which is both enlightening and somewhat dispiriting when you think of what it means for the state of our media. In comparison, many of the Americans came off as little more than immaculately coiffed talking heads, who just happen to be doing their job out in the sand.

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