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
French production in which leading film directors from 11 countries were invited to create 11-minute short films conveying their reflections on the events of September 11.
The film segments vary widely in content and quality. Two allude to U.S. complicity in terrorist acts (in Chile against Allende, who died on September 11, 1973, depicted in the segment by British director Ken Loach; and in Palestine by U.S.-backed Israelis, shown in the segment from Egyptian director Youssef Chahine). Two more recall other destructive acts (a Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, shot by Israeli director Amos Gitan; the Japanese "holy war" against the west in WW II, by Shohei Imamura).
Ironies abound in several stories. Shadows that darken the New York City apartment of a grieving old man suddenly disappear as the World Trade towers telescope to the ground in Sean Penn's piece, bringing the man momentary joy. But in this bright light he can finally see that his wife is really gone. In Mira Nair's film, based on a real incident, a missing young man, also in New York City, the son of a Pakistani family, is first presumed to be a fugitive terrorist, but later he proves to a hero who sacrificed himself trying to save others in the towers.
There are poignant moments dotted throughout. Loach has his exiled Chilean man quote St. Augustine, to the effect that hope is built of anger and courage: anger at the way things are, courage to change them. Imamura tells us that there is no such thing as a holy war. Samira Makhmalbaf shows a teacher with her very young Afghan schoolchildren, exiled in Iran, trying to tell them about the events that have just transpired in New York. But they are understandably more impressed with a major event in their refugee camp, where two men have fallen into a deep well, one killed, the other sustaining a broken leg. This is comprehensible tragedy on a grand scale for the 6 year olds.
Idrissa Ouedraogo, from Burkina Faso, creates a drama in which the son of an ailing woman spots Osama bin Laden in their village and gathers his buddies to help capture the fugitive terrorist, in order to get the $25 million U. S. reward. He tells his friends not to let any of the adults know their plans, for the older folks would merely waste the money on cars and cigarettes, while he plans to help his mother and others who are sick and destitute.
It is Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (maker of "Amores Perros") who provides by far the most powerful and chilling segment, one that, for the most part, shows only a darkened screen with audio tape loops of chanting and voices and occasional thudding sounds. Brief visual flashes gradually permit us to see bodies falling from the high floors of the towers, and it dawns on us that the thuds are these bodies hitting the ground. The sequence ends with elegiac orchestral music and a still shot, bearing a phrase first shown only in Arabic, then with a translation added: "Does God's light guide us or blind us?" (In various languages with English subtitles) Grade: 8/10 (B+). (Seen on 10/31/04). If you'd like to read more of my reviews, send me a message for directions to my websites.
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