A nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Former network producer Linda Ellman was asked to do a piece on the 9/11 Commission's report - a simple enough job, or so it seemed. The massive report, which was assembled by a bi-partisan group, concluded that 9/11 might very well have been prevented given what we knew at the time. Of course, this embarrassed and humbled the White House, which had initially stonewalled the investigation under the aegis of "national security." Despite the evidence, the notion that the tragedy might have been prevented is still something that many still are unwilling to acknowledge.
Ellman's film is essentially a narrative presentation of the Commission's report. It accounts for failures of at least two administrations in dealing with the Al Qaeda threat, and comes up with some unlikely heroes: that is, the victims' families who decided to fight Washington to make the truth known. Most of their recommendations have been passed into law, despite frequent resistance from the Bush administration. The subtext of this film suggests that considerable contributions can be made by an active, aware electorate.
Ellman's approach is even-handed but critical. Her narrative revisits 9/11 in concentrated detail, showing familiar events in a new light. She includes several stories that are almost miraculous - and many others that are, of course, sad. This documentary asks pretty much all the right questions, even though it falls considerably short of the sensationalism of, say, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Given that these events have been raked over so many times, it's surprising that Ellman was able to offer us some new ideas to reflect on.
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