SKD // 2004 // 52 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // October 24th, 2008
The television network banned in the United States
On June 3, 1991 from Beirut, Lebanon, Al Manar TV began broadcasting its own brand of programming. Then, they were a mere few media students broadcasting their anti-Israel message through Beirut but, within only a few years, have become one of the most widely seen Islamic media networks in the world. A fully self-avowed arm of Hezbollah, the network does not deny their spread of propaganda and does not deny that their intentions are to aid in the destruction of Israel. In the Name of Hezbollah: Al Manar TV pretends to expose this fact but, since nobody on Al Manar's end denies it, the documentary fails to make a point on any level.
If anything, this film is nothing but propaganda in itself. The film presents no hard facts about anything it says. At the start, it speculates on the budget for the station by saying that, though Al Manar TV claims its budget at around 11 million Euros, it is "probably ten times more." Probably? They don't say for sure because the network is "secretive." Who is funding the station? They don't know this either, but "probably from Iran and various terrorist organizations." This all may well be true, but speculation is not the best path toward an objective case. Putting statements like this so close to the start of the film puts much of what comes after under suspicion. When trying to expose propaganda, it's best not to use those tactics yourself. Moreover, I don't trust the translation, which starts in Arabic, is then verbally translated into a French voiceover, and the English subtitles are translated from that. This game of telephone with the languages doesn't guarantee any relationship between the Arabic and the English. Even if the translation is accurate, the film is more like propaganda as a result.
I guess, if there is something positive to say about this documentary, the raw footage is interesting. Al Manar TV is a banned signal in the U.S. and in much of Europe, accused of inciting hatred toward Jews. There isn't much arguing that point; they say as much as this when asked. Because of this, the footage from the network, from news to magazine shows to children's programming, is all but unseen by us Westerners. I appreciate the opportunity to see what they broadcast, but I sincerely wish it had been presented with a little objectivity. Instead, their subjective stance falls in line exactly with that they accuse Al Manar of.
In the Name of Hezbollah: Al Manar TV is presented by SKD in a bare-bones, barely touched release. The anamorphic widescreen image and the stereo sound are both adequately clear, but this is a cheap production and it shows in the limitations of picture and audio. I don't trust the subtitles, as I've written, but they are fairly accurate to the French language audio track. There are no extras.
It's amazing how easily a perceived enemy's propaganda can be turned into one's own. By showing us the propaganda and only telling us about how dangerous and untruthful it is without giving any facts to back it up, this documentary proves that point. I'm not for a second going to support what Al Manar TV espouses, but this documentary only manages to undermine any reasonable contrary viewpoint.
Guilty of inciting hatred in this reviewer.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated