Social Cinema: 9/11 (2002)

In light of the 10th year anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, I have decided to open up yet a new series in this blog of mine: Films that Matter. The goal of this series would be to discuss pieces of film that have touched upon subjects that are of relevance to the world we live in today. These films might not be ultimate works of art, but because of their content, they have a relevance that should not be overlooked.

Like I said, I would like to start this new series with a French documentary simply titled 9/11. In case you are already wary of what you are about to read, I can preview the next few paragraphs by saying that what makes this film remarkable and different from the rest is that it did not intend to be what it ultimately became. In fact, the film was intended to be a rather modest inside-look at the lives of New York City firefighters, focusing on the daily occurrences at a station that happened to serve lower Manhattan, to then quickly turn into an astonishing true recollection of a historic event.

During most of its running time, the documentary is nothing more than an hour of impressive footage. It is, without a doubt, one of the most vivid and poignant accounts of the greatest terrorist attack in history. There were no sappy moments or over rehearsed accounts of those involved, it was simply a raw and intimate look from the heroic perspective of the firefighters that were called to action that unforgettable morning.

It is by no means a polished or extremely well-crafted documentary. In fact, a good amount of the film is rather uninteresting as the two french film makers spend time documenting the lives of firefighters in Manhattan in the days prior to the tragedy. It is especially dull because we all know what to expect coming into the film, and the first part has little to do with the tragedy and more to do with understanding the inner workings of a fire station.

What the film does provide is an indelible account of the story told by the cameras of innocent survivors that found themselves in the midst of one of the most horrifying catastrophes the world has ever seen. For all of its value as a historic piece, the film remains a relatively unknown documentary and one wonders why it has. Perhaps it has to do with the over saturation of imagery and video footage provided by an infinite amount of news outlets all around the world, or maybe this is a film that is not suitable to a larger audience whether it may be for the disturbing nature of its content or because the issue remains a sensitive one to a lot of people.

What is definitely true is that “9/11” is a hair-rising, stomach-turning, incredibly horrific account of the tragedy, one that should be watched in order to realize the degree of devastation and human loss from the point of view of the true heroes of that day: fire fighters.


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