November/December 2002 (Volume 17, Issue 6)
9/11: The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition
(2001) 130 min. VHS: $24.99, DVD: $29.99. Paramount Home Video (avail. from most distributors). Color cover. Closed captioned. ISBN: 0-7921-8564-1 (vhs), 0-7921-8567-6 (dvd).
Originally aired on television, this extremely moving program follows the firefighters from Engine 7, Ladder 1--a station located seven blocks from the former World Trade Center site--on September 11, 2001. Setting out that summer to make a documentary about a rookie firefighter named Tony, brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet would end up capturing some of the most exclusive footage of the 9/11 tragedy. Initially covering Tony's training and early days at Engine 7 during the summer of 2001, the filmmakers begin to get anxious about the fact that their subject is a "very white cloud" (i.e., a rookie who doesn't "bring" fires to his shift)--but the focus changes on the morning of September 11, when during a routine gas leak inspection one brother turns his camera to the sky to record the only existing footage of the first plane crash. Separated, one brother follows crew members into Tower 1, while the other combs the streets filming the astonishment and uncertainty of unnerved New Yorkers. Combining horrific scenes of destruction from inside Tower 1, shots of panic-filled citizens running from the wreckage, urgent media coverage, and interviews, 9/11: The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition offers one of the most harrowing and powerful close-up illustrations of the disastrous tragedy released to date. Luckily, all members of Engine 7 and the Naudet brothers (who each feared the other was dead) survive and, although shaken, are able to participate in the massive recovery and cleanup efforts. While we're certain to be deluged with programs of varying quality over the coming months memorializing this significant event in American history, few are likely to have the immediacy of this would-be firefighter profile, turned source material record of a national tragedy, that eventually becomes an admirable tribute. Highly recommended. Editor's Choice. [Note: The DVD includes four additional interview segments.] Aud: H, C, P. (J. Williams)