Well, the summer blockbuster season has kicked off splendidly, hasn't it? Iron Man 3 rocks like the proverbial Mother: Sir Ben Kingsley plays a blinder and my hometown of Croydon gets a mention. Star Trek Into Darkness (why no colon in the title?) has just slid into multiplexes and in the coming weeks and months we have a series of eagerly anticipated big budget movies; The Wolverine; Fast And Furious 6; Man Of Steel; World War Z; Pacific Rim; and the Daddy of them all, The Smurfs 2. For all but the last of these movies we'll have to suspend our disbelief concerning the implausibility of the narrative and for the two hours that we're in the theatre we'll replace our brains with a bucket of popcorn. In this article I would like to suggest that we improve our brain activity between each cinematic encounter by watching a documentary. Documentaries have a dual purpose: they offer a window into a previously unknown world and they humanise complex issues. Here are 5 fantastic documentaries you must see which will open your eyes, alter your perspective and teach you something.
5. Control Room
At the end of The Wizard Of Oz Dorothy recounts the details of what she now realises has been a crazy dream. Hunk, Zeke, Hickory, Auntie Em, Uncle Henry and Professor Marvel all smile affectionately and rather patronisingly as she babbles through the effects of her massive concussion. 10 years after the illegal invasion of Iraq and I feel very much like Dorothy - although my decidedly manly, size 13 feet would never fit into a dainty pair of ruby slippers - as I piece together the fragments of the improbable story we were sold by Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush and Blair. "Iraq presents an immediate threat to the West... Iraq is in possession of WMDs and we know exactly where they are... Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases..." The Control Room is a documentary set in the offices of the Arab satellite news channel Al Jazeera on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It is an enthralling study of the West's warping of perception and a treatise on the question of objective reality. In the First World War, 10 per cent of casualties were civilians. By the Second World War, it was 50 per cent, rising to 70 per cent in Vietnam. In Iraq, it was 90 per cent, but Western mainstream media chose not to depict this horrific truth, instead it was left to Al Jazeera to report the human cost of the illegal war earning the scorn of Rumsfeld who denounced Al Jazeera as vile propagandists. He even suggested that Al Jazeera rounded up women and children and ordered them to cry in front of bombed out buildings in a callous attempt to stir sympathy for those cast as the enemy. A recurring character during the course of this documentary is Lt. Josh Rushing, the press officer at the U.S. Army's Central Command headquarters. Midway through the movie he has an epiphany as he realises the yawning chasm which lies between perception and reality as it pertains to news coverage. After the Pentagon ordered him not to comment on the finished film he left the military, after 14 years of active duty, to help set up the Al Jazeera English satellite station.