11'09''01 - September 11 Movie Review

Simple premise: Eleven filmmakers each get 11 minutes to put their thoughts about September 11, 2001 into film. Documentaries about 9/11 have certainly been made to date -- I'd be surprised if less than a dozen had been released -- and this very format has even been done before too (see our review of Underground Zero).

What September 11 has that the other films don't is star power and international perspective. The 11 directors who submit work here represent a walk of fame of international cinema. Though I'm not familiar with the work of Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran) or Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina-Faso), to name a few, names like Penn, Lelouch, Iñárritu, Nair, and Loach represent some major names.

How they acquit themselves is a bit random -- as is always the case in collaborative efforts like this.

Strangely, the best segments are from the most obscure directors. Quedraogo's story of a boy who is certain Osama bin Laden is hiding out in his village -- and attempts to capture him to earn the $25 million reward -- is a quite funny coming of age tale set in dire times. Makhmalbaf's documentary(?) segment from Iran is a devastating look at how children -- whom we always think of as "innocent" -- can be naive to the point of dangerousness, shrugging off the attacks halfway around the world as an act of God, while they work to build bomb bunkers.

The big guns mostly strike out. Claude Lelouch makes ineffective use of his time with a silly story which, among other things, involves playing volleyball with a ghost. Ken Loach's diatribe about Richard Nixon's meddling in 1970s Chile feels absurdly out of place and inappropriate. Alejandro González Iñárritu takes the lazy route, remixing news reports of the attacks and playing them over black, with a handful of cuts to shots of the people leaping from the towers to their doom. It's still powerful, but it's manipulative laziness.

Still more the vignettes are preachy and uninteresting. Israel's entry consists of a behind-the-scenes look at a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, with reporters running around amid sirens going off. (The obvious statement -- there's terrorism every day in Israel -- is drowned out by the aggravating filmmaking.)

Then there's Sean Penn's 11 minutes, representing America and chronicling a pensioner (Ernest Borgnine) going through his daily ritual on September 10 and on into the morning of the 11th. It's poetic yet strangely inexplicable and only mildly moving.

What's the net result here? Any feelings you have about 9/11 have probably been galvanized over the last three years, and September 11 the movie isn't likely to enhance any of your understanding -- or assuage any of your guilt, panic, or horror.

Comments

11'09''01 - September 11 Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 2002

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