Ernest Borgnine & Others
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Sean Penn, Ken Loach, Mira Nair & Others
11'9"01, also known as September 11, is a powerful, if at times convoluted, look at the impact of the events of 9/11 on the world. The film offers 11 directors from 11 different countries the chance to shoot 11 minute short films on the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The results range from quietly powerful to chaotic to poignant to mind-bogglingly tragic. I found myself in tears during several of these short films and enraged during a couple others.
The directors and countries represented include:
Youssef Chahine- Egypt
Amos Gitai- Israel
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu- Mexico
Shohei Imamura- Japan
Claude Lalouch- France
Ken Loach- United Kingdom
Samira Makhmalbaf- Iran
Mira Nair- India
Idrissa Ouedraogo- Burkina Faso
Sean Penn- USA
Danis Tanovic- Bosnia- Herzegovina
Why do I care to list each? Quite honestly, because I respected each short film considerably. Each filmmaker was given creative license to do as the pleased...some gave very vivid accounts of 9/11 itself. Some showed a segment of their nation's response to it...others related the events of 9/11 to their own struggles. Regardless of their creative choices, these filmmakers did more in 11 minutes than most filmmakers do during a feature length film.
I will attempt briefly to address each film out of respect for each filmmaker:
Chahine's film could possibly seen as an anti-American statement due to a seeming reverence for suicide bombers. It is a challenging film from an American film, yet a powerful one that makes incredibly viable statements within the Muslim world and deeply addresses the events of 9/11 from a cause/effect point of view.
Gitai's film was the least watchable for me, not out of discomfort, but out of a chaotic filmmaking style. I felt like Gitai was attempting to create an atmospheric quality...it simply was too lofty a goal for a short film.
Inarritu's film, for me, was among the most effective and powerful. It is 11 minutes that no survivor of 9/11 nor anyone who has experienced PTSD from such events should witness alone. I not only suggest it could evoke flashbacks, I dare say it WILL evoke flashbacks. Much like the darkness of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11", Inarritu incorporates the use of darkness along with audio tapes including some of the phone calls home from the airplanes. Quite simply, I found myself in tears for this entire 11 minutes. This is a profound tribute and memorial to the victims and survivors of 9/11.
Imamura's film, on the other hand, was unclear in its focus and I found myself fishing for symbolism that I never found. Visually it worked, but I felt like it may have been more an exercise in filmmaking than a film of purpose.
Lalouch's film, for me, was another short film of great beauty. Lalouch took a personal approach providing two characters...one a young, deaf French woman and her boyfriend, an interpreter leaving for an assignment to interpret for a visitor to the WTC. The woman is remarkably human, going about her day completely unaware of the horrors playing on her television. Her boyfriend returns later in the evening having survived the day yet covered in dust and tragedy.
Loach's film addresses Chilean episodes that also occurred on 9/11 involving the US and terrorist activities in that nation. It is, in many ways, an unpopular subject in American politics but a powerful statement and well presented.
Makhmalbaf's film is poignant in that she presents the story of children of Afghanistan who are unaware and clearly do not comprehend the events of the day. The innocence of the children surrounded by this tragedy is beautifully photographed and presented.
Nair's film is, in fact, indicting of our own hysteria after 9/11 in that presents the story of a young Muslim man who was missing from the WTC and was initially suspected of being one of the terrorists. It was later found out that he had, in fact, been one of the many EMS rescue workers who rushed to the scene and ultimately to his death.
Ouedraogo's film is one of this film's lighter moments, which is quite welcome considering the intensity of these films. It is a moral fable that is powerfully presented with a perfect balance of light and dark.
Penn's film is, perhaps, the most personal story in that it focuses on the loss of one man on 9/11. This film features 11 minutes of Ernest Borgnine's finest work in what is essentially a monologue of loss and grief and despair and hope. While a bit heavy handed in its symbolism, it is a tremendous revelation by Penn.
Tanovic's film is powerful in the way that it presents that we simply must go on. It presents a look at that nation and a group of women who gather weekly to protest the horrors of war. On 9/11 they are due to gather for their weekly protest...while the others wish to call off for the day, this one young woman believes it is even a stronger call to action. What follows is a quiet resolve and scene of great beauty.
This film is a call to brotherhood, I believe...it is a call to action and a call to understanding each other. It is a reminder that the actions of a few can impact the entire world. Yet, it need not just be the tragic actions of a few. This film is a reminder of the power of a few people to plant the seeds of beauty, hope and peace throughout the world. As challenging as this film is to see...it simply cries out to be seen.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic