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The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl

When the story of America's "War on Terror" is written, one of the chapters will have to focus on the case of Daniel Pearl. Born into an affluent Jewish family and with an Iraqi mother, he was known for his violin playing and his enthusiasm for journalism. Making his living as a reporter, he bumped around The Wall Street Journal offices, going from Atlanta to Washington D.C. to London, and finally covering the Middle East. While in the Middle East he ruffled some bad feathers, and on Jan. 23, 2002, was invited to an interview he didn't return from. After nine days of captivity he was beheaded on videotape, a video that was shortly thereafter used as terrorist propaganda when the footage made its way to the Internet. The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl (2006) recounts his life story, while drawing parallels to the man who is credited with killing him: Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. Sheikh was born to a wealthy family, who — like Pearl — made a conscious effort to not use that background to his benefit, although in Sheikh's case, that led to joining up with terrorists. Directed by Ahmed J. Jamal and Ramesh Sharma, the documentary is pretty straightforward in its telling, and is split neatly down the middle between the events leading up to Pearl's kidnapping and all that came after. As a piece of journalism, it's pretty good, getting all of the principal players on camera, although it leans heavily on the family. But as a piece of cinema it's not all that exciting, with many talking head shots, while the moments of cinematic flourishes meant to enhance the emotions are not particularly impressive. But because it's short (at 80 minutes), these flourishes don't denigrate the whole, which will surely be successfully used by teachers for years to come. HBO Video's The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl, part of their documentary line, is presented in full-frame with 2.0 mono audio in both English and Spanish. No extras, keep-case.
—DSH



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