Thu October 3, 2002
The compilation of the eleven films, then screened, covered the full range of human emotions.
By Clay Lowe, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
It was a somber evening in Toronto, the air heavy and moist with heat. The voices of those waiting outside Roy Thomson Hall were muted and subdued. The usual buzz of excitement anticipating the arrival of the limos full of world famous directors and stars was conspicuously absent.
There would be no limos, flash bulbs, nor TV reporters curbside tonight. No red carpet. No celebrities schmoozing with the crowds. For the night's screening was meant to be a night of remembrance, a night of reflection. A night to more fully explore the meanings behind the events that took place one year ago on September 11 in New York City, Washington, D.C., and in the fields of Pennsylvania.
Making a subdued entrance on stage was Piers Handling, the director of the Festival, who in turn invited to the podium Alain Brigand, a French television producer whose idea it was to make the film "11'09'01."
Brigand then explained to the audience that eleven filmmakers from around the world had been invited to each make a short film (eleven minutes and nine seconds long) that would reflect upon how last year's September 11th events had impacted upon them.
Four of the filmmakers were present to be introduced to the audience. Mira Nair whose gala screening of "Monsoon Wedding" had been canceled last year because of the disaster, Danis Tonovic whose "No Man's Land" had been a
favorite at last year's Festival. Amos Gita? whose new film "Kedma" was being screened this year, and finally, French filmmaker Claude Lelouch who is most widely known as the director of the romantic film "A Man and A Woman."
The compilation of the eleven films, then screened, covered the full range of human emotions. They were about love, anger, fear, violence, horror, humor, and compassion.
That there had been negative reaction to the films by an American critic at the Venice Film Festival is understandable, and that there were to be negative reactions from American critics following the screening in Toronto is also understandable.
Because The United States is a self-contained "island" unto itself whose media dominates global culture- the news shows, the talk shows, the entertainment industries, it's understandable that there were American critics who felt it was inappropriate for these films not to focus entirely
on America's grief. And it is understandable that they did not think this was an appropriate time to be exploring the causes behind the disaster.
But it is equally understandable that these eleven filmmakers used this occasion to reflect upon their own personal reactions to America's September 11th disaster. That's what they were invited to do.
So it's understandable:
That the film made by the politically astute British director, Ken Loac("Bread and Roses"), recalls that September 11 in 1973 was the day Chile's newly elected President Salvador Allende was assassinated.
That French director Claude Lelouch ("A Man and a Woman") makes a personal film about a deaf-mute woman whose lover returns from the World Trade Center covered with ashes.
That Danis Tanovic ("No Man's Land") returns to the Balkans to film a demonstration of women who each month mourn the 7,000 victims of the Srebrencia massacre.
That American director Sean Penn centers on a recently grieving widower who lives in the shadows of the World Trade Center towers.
That Japanese director Shohei Imamura's ("Warm Water Under A Red Bridge") film is a parable that reflects upon the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
That Israeli filmmaker Amos Gita? ("Kadosh") sets his film in the midst of a suicide bombing in Israel.
That Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf (director of "Blackboards" and daughter of the director of "Kandahar") chooses to capture the fears of Afghan refugee children, who are trying to build a bomb shelter made out of home made bricks because they soon expect the Americans to bomb them in anger.
That Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine ("L'Autre") makes a film featuring a Palestinian mother who asks why it is that an American president gets to decide who is and who is not a terrorist.
That African filmmaker Indrissa Ouedraogo's ("Scenarios from the Sahel") film takes a lighter touch and tells the story of a young African boy who thinks he spots Osama Bin Laden and attempts to report it so he can get the reward money in order to care for his sick mother.
That Indian director Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding") would dramatize the true story of a Pakistani-American police cadet suspected of being involved in the bombing of the World Trade Center until it's later discovered he died trying the people trapped inside.
And finally, it's understandable that Alejandro Gonz?lez In?rritu's ("Amores perros") film, the most visually dramatic of the eleven, was used to bring the movie to its intensely emotional conclusion.
What is not understandable is that North American film distributors seem apprehensive about exhibiting "11'09'01" in the United States, even though many people in the rest of the world have already seen it.
Hopefully some distributor will have picked up on it by now, because the dogs of war are straining at their leashes and Americans should be given a chance to see this film before the dying, once again, commences. For it is axiomatic that no matter how noble the cause, nor how surgical the care, when bombs fall innocent people die. And Americans must understand that when they do, there will be filmmakers who will be compelled to tell their
Clay Lowe co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and programs the film series at the Columbus Museum of Art.