Canada Now film review: This Is Not a Movie
Ivan Radford | On 20, Jun 2020
Director: Yung Chang
Cast: Robert Fisk
Watch This Is Not a Movie online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema
“I fear that what we write doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference.” That’s Robert Fisk reflecting on his decades serving as a foreign correspondent. The documentary released as part of the Canada Now film festival in the UK, introduces us to the political reporter in his Beirut apartment, where he has lived ever since he went there in the 1970s to report on conflict. Reporting is in his very bones, even when he sometimes worries that it’s inconsequential when it comes to changing the world..
The journalist, we learn, was inspired by Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent as a teen, going on to become just that, as he moved from the Troubles in Northern Ireland to the Middle East, reporting on the Iran-Iraq war and, most recently Syria. Director Yung Chang whisks us through that career with an impressively comprehensive scope, and editor Mike Munn does a brilliant job of digging up archive footage to depict each distinct war zone.
Fisk himself is a likeably irascible fellow, unafraid to give his opinion, even when it ruffles feathers – his comments about the geopolitical factors that partly led to 9/11 sparked controversy, but are typical of a man who has embedded himself in the culture, power struggles and political nuances of a place normally absent from our mainstream media when the word “terror” isn’t involved. He’s candid in his observations and analysis, including his frustration at Rupert Murdoch’s The Times editing his work – prompting a departure to join The Independent. There, he’s dubious about the paper’s decision to focus on its online presence, but is glad of the wider reach the web allows.
That pragmatic sense of perspective is only earned over time – it’s been many years since his 2005 landmark book The Great for Civilisation – and he reflects on how, when you’re young, you’re criticised for being inexperienced and, when you’re experienced, told you can’t see the wood for the trees. But if director Yung Chang occasionally allows this portrait to become a little too long in the tooth – and stays away from any criticism of its subject – it captures above all his enduring passion to continue reporting the truth to the world. He compares the Middle East and its conflicts to Tolstoy, a great novel he can’t help but keep reading, and that commitment to credible facts in the current age is inspiring and encouraging to witness.