9/11: The Way We Were
In the months before September 11th, two French filmmakers, brothers Jules and Gédéon Naudet, came to
Unlike Loose Change (as well other documentaries such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Why We Fight) 9/11 is not propagandistic. Nor does it turn its subject matter into a melodrama as have some fictional films on the subject. Unlike the former films, it is a documentary in the sense that it actually documents, to a large extent, what it was like to be a firemen inside the towers, as well as in the time before and after the crash.
Watching 9/11, one remembers how unprecedented the event was which it depicts – something easy to forget after five years of having it abstracted and hammered into our political subconscious. As a film, it is deceptively simple: it seems to be little more than the Naudet brothers’ footage skillfully edited and honestly narrated. But as one watches, it quickly becomes clear how much has changed in the five intervening years since it was shot. Today, the firefighters' can-do attitude seems like innocence almost unimaginable in a world of terrorist threat levels and electronic surveillance. When the firemen close off one of the exits of Tower One or put labels on the front desk “just to make it obvious to people” which tower they are in, it seems almost naïve. Today, even when the subway stops for 10 minutes to wait for clearance it’s hard not to have a moment of panic.
It almost seems appropriate then, when during the break (in the TV version), we are treated to mini-lecture from
Although it is a bit long and at moments heart-wrenching to watch, 9/11 is definitely worth seeing even if only to remind us of the way we were. It received very little press in the US (or at least little that I can remember, and certainly little in comparison to Fahrenheit 9/11) which I find surprising since it is by far the best contemporary documentary I have seen in a while. It is available here from google video with French narration and here as it was aired on ABC.