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MY ARTIST OF THE YEAR: JEHANE NOUJAIM

Disclaimer: I have a teensy bit of guilt for not choosing a blogger or vlogger as my Artist of the Year. I actually had to choose a long time ago. But, I swallow that teensy bit of guilt and it dissolves quickly. Control Room had a huge impact on me, as a documentary filmmaker. I'm proud of my choice and stand by it. Besides, how could I only choose ONE vlogger or blogger? You are all artists of the year in my book. (Pretty smooth copout, eh?)

City Pages 12/29/04
JehaneJEHANE NOUJAIM
by Chuck Olsen

I'm one of those geeks who gets most of his news from the internet, which bestows upon me a mystical power over mainstream media's trite conventions and obvious biases. Our government puts up a smoke screen, our media reports it: Indeed, there appears to be hot vapor emanating from the White House. I like to think I can see through all that and ask, Where's the fire?

But I have an embarrassing admission: I got duped. If anyone was reporting on the real fire--the unpleasant consequences of our actions in Iraq--it was Al Jazeera. Donald Rumsfeld called Al Jazeera "Osama bin Laden's mouthpiece." I tend to distrust anything that sputters out of Rumsfeld's wiry mouth, but somehow this idea penetrated my critical radar. Enemy propaganda. Not to be trusted.

Arab American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim presents a far more complex reality in her documentary Control Room. Noujaim gained access to both Al Jazeera headquarters and the U.S. military's Central Command offices in Qatar. Though only 20 miles separate the two, their perceptions of the U.S. presence in Iraq are light years apart. Noujaim (unlike you-know-who) wisely avoids pandering to either worldview, instead placing her loyalty with her captivating characters, including burly and genial Al Jazeera reporter Hassan Ibrahim and Lt. Josh Rushing, the disarmingly honest and charming press officer from CENTCOM. Rushing starts out parroting administration talking points, but his sincere and candid conversations with Ibrahim give rise to cognitive dissonance; you can almost see the bridge of understanding being forged in their eyes.

Noujaim's camera shows us perhaps the most important conversation of our time. Different channels, different truths--and these days, we need all the truths we can get.

Chuck Olsen is a Minneapolis-based blogger and the director of Blogumentary.

More artists that resonate strongly: 12 Rods, Daniel Bergin, Jon Stewart, Lawrence Lessig, John Cassavetes, Brian Wilson, Jonathan Caouette

December 29, 2004 at 06:24 PM in Art/Design, Film, Media | Permalink

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