Recycle follows ex-Mujahideen bodyguard who collects cardboard to support his family

Tonight, PBS Independent Lens debuts a documentary, Recycle, which has a simple name that defies the complexity of its subject: it tells the story of a Jordanian man who’s an ex-Mujahideen fighter and bodyguard who now supports his 10-person family by collecting cardboard in Zarqa, where al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was born.

PBS says that filmmaker Mahmoud al Massad “unravels the knotted threads of poverty, humiliation and strict religious doctrine that have made the city a continuing source for jihadist recruits” while the documentary itself “follows Ammar throughout his day, charting the life of this deeply religious yet moderate Islamic man as he tries to survive and support his eight children and two wives in one of Zarqa’s poorest neighborhoods. In the meantime, his attempts to build a normal life in the impoverished town are thwarted at every turn. He cannot afford his rent; a scheme to sell used vehicles in Iraq fails when he is almost killed by extremists and American soldiers, and the book he is writing–a moderate interpretation of jihad–goes unfinished.”

The subtitled film debuts tonight on PBS stations, and there are three clips from it on YouTube: one, two, and three.

Recycle [PBS]

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.