Eleven directors from 11 countries each contribute an 11-minute short reflecting on the events of 11 September 2001. A village teacher in Iran tries to explain to her young students what's happened. City kids in Burkina Faso think they've spotted Osama bin Laden. A deaf Frenchwoman in Manhattan writes a Dear John letter to a man who has left that morning for work at the World Trade Center. A Chilean remembers Allende. Events recall other deaths. A mother endures more than her son's death. And so on. The tone varies, as do the locales. Most stories are about others coming to terms with the events of the day, but at least one confronts the viewer with tragedy and death. Written by
The best kind of movie that can be made about 9/11
It was clear right from the beginning that 9/11 would inspire about as many films as World War II and Vietnam combined; however, there is certainly a big danger that most of these films to come are about as good (or rather: bad) as Pearl Harbor. It is a great luck that the first international release about 9/11 is not a cheesy love story starring a bunch of pretty faces, but a collective work of 11 directors from the entire world.
I'm not intending to say that all 11 episodes are great (Youssef Chahine's, for example, has a needless prologue with too many cuts and Shohei Imamura's has a really bizarre ending) or that the segments are in the right order (Imamura's, being the only one not referring directly to the Twin Towers, should open the film, not end it, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu's should be the last one instead, as it's the most impressive one). But it is an impressing effort and an interesting portrayal of the way other parts of the world react to the collapse of the twin towers.
Consider Samira Makhmalbaf's opening segment, in which an Afghan teachers tries to explain to her pupils what happened in New York and unsuccessfully suggests a one-minute silence. Or Idrissa Ouedraogo's part (which features a bin Laden-double so much resembling the real one that you'll be shocked when you see him, I promise), in which 5 boys muse about good things that can be done with the reward put out on Laden.
There's a surprisingly good (and extremely angry) segment by Ken Loach about a man from Chile talking about what he calls "our Tuesday September 11" - that September 11 in 1973 when their elected president Allende was killed and Pinochet installed his dictatorship - with the generous help from Henry Kissinger and the CIA. This could have become a terrible effort in Anti-Americanism, but it did become a sad tale and shares my recognition for the best segment with Inarritu's (mainly sound impressions and phone calls from the hijacked planes to a black screen, sometimes a few pictures of people falling down the WTC and finally a collapsing tower, ending with the screen brightening up and one question appearing) and Amos Gitai's about a hysterical reporter trying desperatly to get on air after a car bomb exploded in Tel Aviv (hard to recognize, but this one is a masterpiece of choreography).
All these different segments (I haven't mentioned yet Claude Lelouch's about a deaf girl, Danis Tanovic's about a demonstration of the Women of Srebrenica, Mira Nair's - strange, but it takes an Indian director to make the part that is probably most appealing to Western tastes - about a Muslim family whose son is under a terrible suspicion after 9/11 and Sean Penn's with Ernest Borgnine (yes, Ernest Borgnine) as a widower leading the most depressive life one can imagine) add up to a unique film not easy to watch and hard to forget. I am sure this film will be a classic known to everyone thirty years from now. I hope it will be remembered for starting a long tradition of world cinema movies. But, alas, it's far more probable it will be remembered as a one-film-only effort. And as the one of the few 9/11 movies made by then that don't reduce this terrible event to a love story with a happy end just to please the audience.
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