By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
As the relationship between Wiener and Naji proceeds cautiously toward a highly formal but real friendship, the two men comfort themselves by agreeing to pretend that they both want to prevent a war, although Naji is smart enough to know that the reporter in Keaton wants his story, and that story isn’t going to be a diplomatic solution. Their final scene together, touring the devastated Iraqi capital, implicitly expresses this. “We have become friends,” Naji says. Wiener agrees. “And you got your story,” Naji adds. “Not the one I wanted,” Wiener replies, after looking around at the Iraqis digging through the rubble of their homes. “Isn‘t it?” Naji asks skeptically, giving him a long, quizzical stare.
Live From Baghdad celebrates the rise of worldwide, 247 news reporting, and the gutsy journalists who put CNN on the map. We follow the crew as it struggles with antiquated equipment and tricks the Iraqis into allowing them to use a “four-wire” transmitter that will permit them to relay their reports directly to Atlanta -- while shrugging off the sneers of reporters at the major networks, who accuse them of playing footsie with the Iraqi government and dub the station “The Voice of Iraq” after Wiener is conned into filming a segment that amounts to Iraqi propaganda. Since HBO and CNN are both owned by AOL Time Warner, the film’s laudatory tone doesn‘t come as a surprise.
Ultimately, the film is a paean to CNN’s “Baghdad Boys” -- as Peter Arnett, Bernard Shaw, John Holliman, as well as Wiener and the rest of the crew, were dubbed -- who stayed behind in the Iraqi capital after reporters from the major networks had pulled out, and reported on the war in a candle-lit room by sticking a microphone and camera out the window.
The scenes with the exuberant Arnett (Bruce McGill) and the amusingly dopey Shaw (Robert Wisdom) are a lot of fun, particularly once the bombing starts, and they do give a sense of what it would be like to report from a city under siege by the U.S. Air Force.
There‘s a great scene the morning after the first night’s bombing, when Arnett grabs the microphone from Shaw when the latter, exhausted by the night‘s ordeal, starts free-associating embarrassingly on air. Looking out the window at the ruined city, Arnett movingly matches word to image and improvises a perfectly enunciated report: “From our vantage point on the ninth floor of the Al Rashid Hotel, the devastation seems formidable. What were buildings are now shells, like boxes crushed by someone’s giant hands. Smoke is rising everywhere, the streets are full of debris and devoid of a living soul. None of us here, I am sure, will ever forget this night, or what happened here.”
In modest ways, Live From Baghdad makes sure that we don‘t forget either. We got our story, too.
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