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September 11

Calls from the doomed World Trade Center are eerie in segments of "September 11." 11 directors from around the world contribute 11 segments. The best, by Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, is overpowering: 11 minutes of a black screen, with flashes of bodies falling. At first, the soundtrack is of excited voices, snatches of newscasts, and part of a call from someone on a hijacked plane ("We have a problem on the plane, and I want to say, 'I love you...'"); then we hear muffled thuds of bodies' landing. and loud hammering as floors collapse onto each other, recorded from a radio inside the building - the last thing terrified people in the towers heard - which creates almost unbearable empathy.

So does Britain's Ken Loach. A Chilean writes to Americans and sympathizes, recalling that on another Tuesday, Sept. 11 (1973), a CIA-funded coup overthrew and murdered democratically-elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, and the U.S. installed right-wing dictator Pinochet in a reign of torture and terror. A third powerful piece is by Mira Nair of India, about a Pakistani woman whose son took the NY subway to medical school but vanished. The FBI questioned her, and her son was suspected of terrorism, but his body was found in the rubble six months later. A trained medic, he'd gone to help.

Samira Makhmalbaf shows an Iranian teacher trying to tell her Afghan refugee students what happened. They ask if God would kill people; "God isn't crazy," one says. They can't imagine NY buildings, so the teacher stands them by a smokestack, eerily venting smoke.

Humor is from Idrissa Ouedraogo of Africa, where five poor boys think they've seen Osama bin Laden, and want to capture him for the reward. Bosnia's Danis Tanovic shows women marching with the names of their dead while the death toll mounts in New York; Japan's Imamura films a man who survived Hiroshima's bomb but believes he's a snake. Sean Penn stars Ernest Borgnine as an old man who doesn't know the towers' fall brought sunlight in; he's joyous his dead wife's flowers bloomed. France's Claude Lelouch's sentimental piece is about a deaf woman who doesn't know what happened until her boyfriend walks in, covered in dust. Why did no director make a clear attack on the terrorists? 9/11 was a crime, and after the symbolism, history, imagery, and analysis, that point must be made.
Director(s): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Ken Loach, Mira Nair, Amos Gitai, Youssef Chahine,
Writer(s): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Ken Loach, Mira Nair, Amos Gitai, Youssef Chahine,
Cast: archival footage and indigenous actors of various countries
Release Date: 2003   
Keyword: September 11, 2001; 11 directors from 11 countries
Target Age: 14+   Category: war and peace
Documentary: no
Language: English; other subtitled languages   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001

This chronological anthology of excerpts, essays, and personal narratives reconstructs the events of September 11-17, 2001, and reviews events recorded and stored in CBS News' archives. The documentary opens with Dan Rather and a CBS News special report, including clips of Bryant Gumbel on the phone with eyewitnesses five minutes after the first crash.

Among CBS reporters covering the tragedy was Carol Marin, who fled the collapse to go uptown to the CBS News Studio, still covered in dust and debris when she went on-air live. Equally memorable is Ed Bradley's lengthy video coverage of "thousands of volunteers drawn by an overwhelming urge to help" rescue work. Several abbreviated pieces by CBS correspondents are too short, and weak alongside other material.
Director(s): CBS News
Writer(s): CBS News
Cast: Dan Rather narrates
Release Date: 2002   
Keyword: The events of September 11-17, 2001, as they unfolded that d
Target Age: 12+   Category: war and peace
Documentary: yes
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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