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Oscars: Al Jazeera covers the red carpet

Qatar-based news org bolsters coverage for Mideast-themed noms

The world’s major media outlets are repped all along Oscar’s red carpet, and no one is more eager to capture the vibe surrounding some of this year’s key nominees than the team from Al Jazeera.

The Oscars is a big story for the Qatar-based news org this year because of the Middle Eastern connection to best picture contenders “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” and the docs “The Gatekeepers” and “5 Broken Cameras,” which deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nasser Hssaini, Washington correspondent for Al Jazeera (the mothership net, not the nascent Al Jazeera America channel), said the political controversies stirred by this. year’s nominees is a “big story for us.” As Hssaini and his producer, Meha Ahmad, waited to do another live shot, the correspondent assured that he wasn’t here to cover “the personal fluff” but rather the larger global issues that made Oscar’s stage.

“This is Hollywood’s movie-making machine in action,” Hssaini said while waiting to do a live shot for the cabler that is widely distribbed around the world. “These are movies that show us how America looks at the war on terror, on Afghanistan, on Iran. That’s not fluff, that’s news. People want to know that.”

And the Oscars will whet the appetites of auds in the Middle East to see “Zero” and “Argo,” he predicted. They will be widely distribbed in moderate countries, and available on the black market in more restrictive countries like Iran.

“For sure ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ will be a hit in the Middle East. The Iranians don’t like the way the history was told in ‘Argo.’ That makes people want to see it,” Hssaini said.

Hssaini made a point of noting what he described as the network’s even-handed treatment of the perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raised in the docs.

“We don’t tell our viewers what to think,” he said. “We talked with both directors about the message of their movies.”

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