- Jehane Noujaim’s Al Jazaeera documentary Control Room stirs up the first Dubai Film Festival.
Al Jazeera Documentary Control Room infuriates Dubai Film Festival audience
Whereas the Berlin Film Festival will definitely feature on-screen controversies courtesy of Régis Wargnier’s missing link movie Man to Man, the first edition of the Dubai Film Festival has experienced contentious behavior of the live kind, courtesy of a polemical Al Jazeera documentary.
“You’re appalling, you son of a dog. May your house be destroyed!” one Egyptian woman yelled during a Dubai screening of Jehane Noujaim’s Control Room, which offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the Qatar-based news network.
The woman’s anger was directed at U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who, following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, is shown dismissing scenes of grieving Iraqis and bombed-out buildings as having been “stage-managed.”
The George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military have claimed that Al Jazeera is an anti-American tool for Muslim radicals, an accusation vehemently refuted by the network. Thus far, five Arab countries, among them U.S. allies Iraq and the Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia, have banned the news station.
According to Al Jazeera itself, to date Control Room has failed to find distribution in any Arab nation. Adding insult to injury, the film was disqualified from next year’s Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature category.
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Noujaim’s documentary was one of dozens of films presented at the Dubai Film Festival, which is supposed to serve as a cultural bridge between the Muslim and the non-Muslim worlds.
Additionally, festival organizers announced that more than 70 top-rated Arab performers, producers, and directors from Egypt, Syria, and Kuwait took part in the event. Among these were actors Duraid Lahham and Laila Olwi, directors Ali Badrakhan and Hala Khalil, and producers Safwat Ghatas and Mohamed Hussein Ramzy.
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Dubai Film Festival website.
Image from Jehane Noujaim’s Al Jazeera documentary Control Room: Magnolia Pictures.
“Al Jazeera Documentary Outrages Dubai Film Festival Audience” last updated in December 2020.