Review: This is Not a Movie

Year: 2020
 Runtime: 106 minutes
 Director: Yung Chang
 Writers: Yung Chang, Nelofer Pazira

 By Joan Amenn

Robert Fisk is one of the most internationally recognized journalists in the world with over forty years covering the Middle East. When he asks if there is something wrong with humanity because it continually allows atrocities such as genocide to take place he is not being over dramatic. He has witnessed more than most of us are likely to, or that we could bear to see for that matter. And he has reported it, even putting himself in physical peril as well as risking his professional reputation for the sake of telling his stories. “This is Not a Movie” (2019) is a powerful and sometimes uncomfortable encapsulation of what it is like to live in Beirut and bear witness to horrible violence and seemingly endless suffering.

Fisk was first assigned to Belfast, Ireland as a young reporter in the 1970’s. There he wrote of the struggles that are now known as “The Troubles” and looks back on that time as good preparation for his work in the Middle East. He learned to question authorities of all kinds in those days and has not stopped questioning, even challenging, ever since. This has resulted in him leaving employment several times until he finally found a supportive home for his work at the periodical, The Independent, where he remains to this day. Despite the occasional controversy, he has received so many awards and other notes of recognition it would take another documentary to list them all, but this film does briefly show a few. Fisk actually looks upon print journalism transitioning to the Internet as a good thing since it provides the opportunity for a broader audience but admits he is a devoted fan of the printed word.

this is not a movie
Robert Fisk and Amira Hass in This Is Not a Movie (2019)

“This is Not a Movie” is inspiring and heartbreaking as the same time but it is definitely worth seeing just to share Fisk’s world for a brief time.”

He says that “Lawrence of Arabia called sunshine a sword” and it is easy to see some similarities between the two men. While Lawrence welded an actual sword, Fisk uses the “sunshine” of journalism to shed light on atrocities that might never otherwise have been known. Reporting is his weapon of choice and he is devoted to his cause of journalism being “neutral on the side of those who suffer.” It is a difficult mission to accept but Fisk has called Beirut his home for decades, much like T.H. Lawrence embraced the Middle East when he found himself at odds with his native society.

this is not a movier robert
Robert Fisk in This Is Not a Movie (2019)

It is not easy to share in his travels across Syria and see what he sees on his way to the battlefront. Astonishingly, he is granted access to extremely dangerous and politically sensitive areas and personnel despite being a foreigner and a known journalist. The scenes can be graphic but as he says, this is not a movie, this is real life. A journalist can only report what he sees so that the world knows what is transpiring, so that no one can say that they did not know. This is his call to action for the younger generation to continue his work. “This is Not a Movie” is inspiring and heartbreaking as the same time but it is definitely worth seeing just to share Fisk’s world for a brief time.

“This is Not a Movie” is currently showing as part of “Canada Now” Festival as part of the Curzon Home Cinema. You can find out more here.

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