September 11

on July 18, 2003 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
To commemorate the events of 9/11, 11 filmmakers from around the world were assigned to make personal short movies about the tragedy, with the only stipulation being that they be 11 minutes, nine seconds and one frame long, hence the dual meaning of “11'09”01.” Two of the films are anti-American. Egyptian director Youssef Chahine's short is an incoherent mess that utilizes the specter of a dead marine in Beirut to attack the U.S. over its foreign policies and provide a justification for Palestinian suicide bombers as well. Briton Ken Loach has insensitively chosen to have a victim of the 1973 U.S.-supported coup in Chile, which also took place on a Sept. 11 Tuesday, write a letter to the traumatized New Yorkers, reminding them of his plight. Other films in the series are either muddled--Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai seems to either be equating the terrorist attacks on Israelis with the 9/11 attack on the U.S. or castigating the Western media for hyping the event--or ridiculous, as in American Sean Penn's idiotic tale of a man (Ernest Borgnine) whose flowers bloom now that the towers no longer block them from the sun. The best two: Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf's gentle tale of an Afghan refugee teacher in Iran trying to explain the events of 9/11 to children who can barely conceive of towers or mobile phones, and Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's horrific, visceral depiction of the tragedy, evoked by a black screen, punctuated occasionally by shots of the towers burning or bodies falling, with voices of Arabs, Americans and worldwide broadcasters heard on the soundtrack. It's chilling and the only short to fully use the resources of the medium to get at a feel for 9 /11.

The overall weak quality of this omnibus film suggests that the event is still too fresh to be dealt with artistically. Starring Ernest Borgnine and Moni Moshonov. Directed by Claude Lelouch, Ken Loach, Danis Tanovic, Sean Penn, Amos Gitai, Shohei Imamura, Samira Makhmalbaf, Youssef Chahine, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Mira Nair and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Produced by Jacques Perrin and Nicholas Mauvernay. No distributor set. Documentary/Drama. English-, French-, Serbian-, Spanish-, Hebrew-, Arabic-, Japanese and Indian-language; subtitled. Running time: 135 min.

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