The Pursuit Of Truth--A Moving And Important Tribute To Dani
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 01/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Catching up on some noteworthy documentaries, I was eager to check in with HBO's "The Journalist and the Jihadi" about the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The horrific details, and subsequent broadcasting (which I refused to watch), of Pearl's beheading are still emblazoned in my memory years after the fact. Taking a dignified and restrained approach to the tragedy, the documentary sets up an interesting narrative device--paralleling Pearl's life with that of Omar Sheikh, the Jihadi responsible for his abduction.
Pearl, a successful and intelligent family man, quickly achieved success and respect within the political arena. Sheikh, educated in England and from a privileged background, distanced himself from his upbringing to take up a very different political crusade. But due to the nature of the resources available, Pearl's life is more fully examined within the film. Interviews with family, friends and coworkers provide a detailed look at a man who sought to make a difference. Sheikh, meanwhile, is more superficially profiled through archival footage and historical documents as he progressed through the ranks of terrorist organizations.
When the two get together in Pakistan, the film becomes a harrowing account of Sheikh's betrayal and Pearl's abduction. The procedures that led to the uncovering of Sheikh's identity and Pearl's fate are faithfully rendered--absolutely riveting and heartbreaking. Ultimately, though, I didn't learn much that I didn't already know--but this is still a powerful and relevant examination of the event. What emerges, and what lingers, from the film is the portrait of Daniel Pearl. This film honors his memory, and his pursuit of truth amounts to an act of heroism. Mariane Pearl, Daniel's wife, wrote "A Mighty Heart" based on her husband's kidnapping and is featured prominently in the documentary. "Heart" is being adapted into a feature film with Angelina Jolie, and one can hope it will be as fitting a tribute to Daniel as "The Journalist and the Jihadi." KGHarris, 01/07."
Common tragedy in uncommon circumstances
Brendan M. Howard | Kansas, USA | 02/18/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Journalist and the Jihadi isn't as interesting as it deserves to be. The complicated world of Middle East Islam that reporter Daniel Pearl lived to report and died reporting is warped into a background for Pearl's own horrid kidnapping and murder. Writer Amit Roy reads almost comical meaning into the video scraps of Pearl's and Sheikh's young adulthood. Sheikh is depicted as a Muslim youth getting into arm-wrestling, and a speaker talks about the anger he reflected back at his middle-class London Western opponents. I just saw somebody who liked to compete.
Pearl is presented as an open-minded, fact-tracking violinist-turned-journalist, who loved Islam and the Muslims even if he criticized their governments. After 9/11, he especially shines, when he tries to track the money of al-Qaeda's supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He eventually settles down in Pakistan for a few years with his wife. I felt respect for a man who risked life and limb to secure important stories, but shook my head in surprise that a man with a baby on the way would agree to meet a fundamentalist Muslim leader on the word of a man who turns out to be the executor of his kidnapping.
We are thankfully spared a viewing of the brutal beheading of Pearl that was available for viewing everywhere.
As a primer on how Daniel Pearl wound up dead, this is first-rate. The best part is the chronicling of the moments leading up to, in the midst of, and in the aftermath of the kidnapping. On what his life and death could mean--on how the world should interpret this--it's quiet. But to me that's the spark that would have ignited my interest."