Saturday, 2 April 2011

Cinema of 9/11

The tenth anniversary of the attacks on America are approaching and I'm currently writing an article about films that have tackled and clealy referenced the tragic events of 11th September 2001.

In preparation, this week I finally got round to watching the short film anthology '11/09/01 September 11'. Made in 2002, this seems to me to be the first cinematic response to the tragedy. It is an amazing collection of work with interesting international directors tackling the events in very different ways. It's hard to choose favourites from such a diverse, thought-provoking collection. However the French director Claude Lelouch's 11 minute segment created a strong emotional impact with use of news footage and the experience of a deaf woman in New York.

Ken Loach's piece leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. For me it was a very effective history lesson. It puts 9/11 into perspective by reminding viewers of the massacre of 30,000 Chileans, a massacre that the American government was behind. Good points to raise but I can't shake the feeling that the films here should be more focussed on New York, the towers, the lives lost in 2001 (not to suggest that they are more important than the lives of Chileans- just becuse of the title of the film).

However Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's segment is at the other extreme. It is nothing but images and sounds from the day. People fall, black screen, people fall. It feels a bit exploitative of the incredible footage but is undeniably extremely saddening and shocking despite having seen these images over and over before.

Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran), Mira Nair (India) and Sean Penn (USA) also impressed with their short films. Their respective contributions show the impact of 9/11 (or lack of impact) on a class of school children in Iran, the search for a lost son and the xenophobia experienced by a American-Muslim family in the aftermath and the impact of the towers fall on one lonely old man in New York.

This week I also started watching the TV series 'Rescue Me' starring Denis Leary about firefighters in post 9/11 Manhatten coming to terms with loss and grief. Totally politically incorrect with its homophobic and sexist lead characters, three episodes in and I'm hoping the characters become more sympathetic. Anyway, the references to 9/11 are abundant as all the characters lives have been touched by the tragedy. I'd be interested to know how New York firefighters feel about their representation in the show.

I also plan to re-watch 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002) which used Ground Zero as a backdrop. Obviously I will consider United 93 and World Trade Center (both 2006) and their head-on depictions of the tragedy, but also their themes of hope in the face of total despair.

I also intend to consider the use of the aesthetics of 9/11 in films such as Cloverfield (for more on this please read and War of the Worlds (Spielberg, 2005).

I will also explore the use of 9/11 in two Michael Moore documentaries (Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11), Adam Sandler drama 'Reign Over Me' (astounding performance-melodramatic but well worth a watch!) and Robert Pattinson tear-fest 'Remember Me'.

It's going to be gruelling watching 9/11 related films for the next few weeks but it is a subject that I have very strong feelings about and I'm looking forward to getting started on the article. Is there any films I've missed that clearly should be included here?