leave a comment --Ken Fox
If ever a news event deserved to be described from multiple perspectives, it's the Sept. 11th attack on the World Trade Center, which took the lives of nearly 3,000 people and left a city of some 8 million faced with an uncertain future. Working on this assumption, filmmaker Steven Rosenbaum assembled from video footage shot by 27 different New Yorkers a gripping and deeply moving account of that fateful Tuesday and the week that followed. Few of those New Yorkers would call themselves filmmakers; they're students, computer programmers, graphic designers and postal workers who happened to have access to video cameras, which they used to record history. The images they capture — raw, immediate, at times poetic — offer a unique, 360-degree panorama of life in New York City during that terrible time. Rosenbaum opens with an eerie montage of lower Manhattan in the quiet days before — some of it shot from a small private plane that cruised the air space around the World Trade Center — followed by the destruction of the towers. As a participant describes it, one watches the events unfold "like two people... one horrified, the other fascinated," and the enormity of the event is captured in specific details: a lone figure tumbling from a smoke-filled, upper-story window; a piece of now-meaningless paper from the destroyed WTC offices of Cantor Fitzgerald landing in Brooklyn; a shot of the North Tower during that brief moment when it stood alone. Stunned and choking, New Yorkers stumble out of the cloud of dust and debris like zombies, but as the smoke clears and the shock wears off, the cameras capture people springing into action, donating blood, building stretchers, cheering the rescue workers as they head into Ground Zero. Rosenbaum chose his footage judiciously, selecting material that evokes the mixture of shock, fear and newfound sense of community that gripped the city. We're shown the Union Square night vigil; the bomb scare at the Empire State Building; the lines of people assembling at the Lexington Avenue Armory to post fliers and photos of the missing; the extraordinary outpouring of support and supplies. With commentary provided by each of the participating filmmakers — ordinary people who were themselves part of the story — the film not only stands as an important street-level document of that time, but makes a valuable contribution to the growing compilation of 9/11 storytelling.