Timely, crucial docu was shown on BBC 2 last summer, as part of its “Correspondent” series. It stands comfortably alone, adding needed balance to the West’s woefully one-sided coverage of U.S.-U.K. attack on Iraq. Pic is a must for pubcasters and cable newsers who would like to redress dereliction of journalistic duty, and could sustain some theatrical play, perhaps in updated fashion.
Combination with the same series’ coverage of the Private Lynch charade would make an excellent package. Helmer Ben Anthony’s crew was allowed full access to the Qatar-based satellite network and its operation, mostly run by secular, Western-educated types, comes across as a model newsroom — especially when compared with the managed news site Yanks threw up in nearby Dohar. Auds get to know al-Jazeera execs Omar Bec and Ibrahim Hilal as they make tough choices about what goes on air and watch their stuff get stolen by other Arabic-lingo stations. Most affecting are visits with ex-Iraqi named Mawafak, who has to translate for Colin Powell while bombs fall on his family. Most disturbing is the death of an a-J anchor, bombed in a Baghdad office.