11’9”01 September 11 is an anthology film of 11 short films by some of the world’s revered filmmakers as they each make a short film about 9/11 based on an idea by Alain Brigand. With each short having a running time of 11 minutes and nine seconds and one frame about 9/11, it allows each filmmaker from different countries to respond about the infamous attacks on September 11, 2001. The result is a fascinating anthology film from some of the world’s best filmmakers.
Iran (written and directed by Samira Makhmalbaf) is about a schoolteacher (Maryam Karimi) trying to teach young Afghan kids about what had just happened as they look at a tall chimney stack to think about the attacks in New York City. In France (directed by Claude Lelouch and written by Claude Lelouch and Pierre Uytterhoeven), a deaf woman (Emmanuelle Laborit) writes a letter to her American boyfriend (Jerome Horry) who is working at the World Trade Center as she is unaware of what is happening. Egypt (written and directed by Youssef Chahine) is about a documentary filmmaker (Nour El-Sherif) communicating with a dead soldier (Ahmed Haroun) from the 1983 Beirut bombing as they try to make sense of war and what happened in the U.S.
Bosnia-Herzegovina (written and directed by Danis Tanovic) is the story of a young woman (Dzana Pinjo) going to a protest rally, much to the wishes of her mother (Tatjana Sojic), as she meets her legless friend (Aleksandar Seksan) where the events of 9/11 threatens the rally. Burkina Faso (written and directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo) has a young boy (Lionel Zizreel Guire) claiming to see Osama Bin Laden as he rallies his friends to hunt him down for the reward money so they can help his ailing mother. In United Kingdom (directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty, Ken Loach, & Vladimir Vega), Vladimir Vega writes a letter to the people of 9/11 as he talks about the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat that happened on that same date. Mexico (written and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) is a short that collects brief images of bodies falling from the Twin Towers with sounds of what is happening on a black screen.
In Israel (directed by Amos Gitai and written by Amos Gitai and Marie Jose Sanselme), a soldier (Liron Levo), an officer (Tomer Russo) deal with a car bombing while a news reporter (Keren Mor) tries to cover what happened only to learn about what happened in NYC. India (directed by Mira Nair and written by Sabrina Dhawan) is the true story of an Islamic family wondering the whereabouts of a man who is rumored to be a terrorist. United States of America (written and directed by Sean Penn) is about a widower (Ernest Borgnine) who believes his wife is still around until light appears for his flowers. In Japan (directed by Shohei Imamura and written by Daisuke Tengan), a man (Tomorowo Taguchi) returns from World War II acting like a snake causing trouble among people from his village.
9/11 was a tragedy that really affected the world about terrorism and the chaos following the attacks. Yet, it’s not an American event that happened but also the world as the film is about how the world reacted to an event as catastrophic as 9/11. For 11 filmmakers, each one had to make a short with a running time of 11 minutes and nine seconds so they can each shed provide insight into how they feel about what happened on that day. The overall result is a film that has some great segments, some decent ones, and one that is really ridiculous.
The film starts off innocently by Samira Makhmalbaf who creates a story about a schoolteacher trying to teach her young students about what just happened. For these young Afghani refugee kids whose parents are building a shelter in wake of what just happened, they’re not exactly sure what happened as they’re talking. Yet, it’s all about the innocence of children trying to understand that they’re world is going to change. Makhmalbaf’s short along with Idrissa Ouedraogo’s short in Burkina Faso has an air of innocence that isn’t displayed often as the latter is about a boy wanting to capture Osama Bin Laden to get reward money for his ailing mother with the help of his friends.
These two shorts are among the highlights of the anthology film as both filmmakers each provide their own ideas about what happened at 9/11. Others like Claude Lelouch, Danis Tanovic, and Mira Nair provide more personal stories about the attacks on a more dramatic scale. While Lelouch uses 9/11 as a dramatic plot-point in this story of a woman wanting to leave her boyfriend, Tanovic puts a bit of politics over the events of Bosnia-Herzegovina as the woman wanting to protest finds a bigger reason to do her protest. Nair’s story is based on the true story of a young Islamic-American man lost during 9/11 as his family is forced to confront the possibilities that he’s a terrorist where they’re suddenly isolated by neighbors over a misunderstanding while it’s ending is a lesson about prejudices and loss.
Directors like Youssef Chahine and Amos Gitai both provide some political ideas about their own situations of 9/11 in relation to the Middle East. While Chahine’s segment is a bit over-stylized with its story of a director talking to a soldier, it does provide a point about the fallacies of war and conflict no matter what side anyone is on. Gitai’s short is shot entirely in one continuous short as a car bomb attack happens as a reporter tries to reveal what is going though she’s being cut off by her editor about 9/11 as she tries to state all the important tragedies that occurred on September 11th. It’s a chaotic segment though it tries to reveal that just because something happened in the U.S. doesn’t mean that the tragedies in Israel shouldn’t be ignored as it’s a good short despite having a heavy-handed message.
The Japanese short provided by Shohei Imamura, in his final work as a filmmaker, is the one that deviates from everything that is about 9/11 as it’s more about the aftermath of war and its effects on soldiers. Though it’s the short that doesn’t seem to fit in, the final message about the fallacy of Holy War does make a compelling point about what Imamura wants to say. The most shocking and most harrowing short comes from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu as his segment is just a simple tale of all of chaos happening as brief images of bodies jumping off the tower and then fade-to-black for sounds of bodies hitting the ground. It is definitely the most uncomfortable one in the entire film yet it ends with the words “Does God’s light guide us or blind us?” as Inarritu is asking more questions rather than provide answers about this tragedy.
With the highlights of the film coming from Nair, Inarritu, Ouedraogo, and Makhmalbaf with really good ones from Lelouch and Tanovic, the best segment comes from Ken Loach. Loach’s short about Vladimir Vega’s experience about his September 11 tragedy back in 1973 Chile when Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende is one of the most haunting stories told. With Vega both narrating and singing about what happened as he writes a letter to Americans about what they’re dealing with. It’s also a reminder that he hopes they don’t forget about what happened in Chile and the role they played into Allende’s overthrow and his death on that day either by suicide or murder. It’s also a sad reminder that though Vega lives happily in England with his family, he could never return to Chile over what happened.
With Loach’s short being the best for its mix of personal storytelling and political insight, the worst one comes from Sean Penn. Despite a great performance from Ernest Borgnine, it’s definitely one of the most ridiculous as it’s about a widower wanting light outside of his house so the flowers would bloom as he talks to his wife as if she’s still here. The ending is without a doubt one of the worst as it involves one of the towers falling and sunlight appears for the flowers to bloom. The ending might be offensive to people though Penn was probably not intending to do that though he approaches it in a very bad way.
While there’s some great technical moments in some of the shorts, notably the ones by Gitai, Loach, Inarritu, and Lelouch in terms of photography, sound design, and music score. Each short is presented by a transitional scene of the world map as it plays to soft electronic music and later a somber orchestral piece that is provided by Alexandre Desplat. This way, it allows each short to be unified into one film as it ends up being one of the most intriguing yet powerful anthology films about one of the most horrifying events of the 21st Century.
11’9”01 September 11 is an excellent anthology about the world’s reaction to 9/11. With some great pieces by Samira Makhmalbaf, Mira Nair, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Idrissa Ouedraogo, and an outstanding one from Ken Loach. It’s a film that emphasizes that 9/11 is a world event that shook up everything that happened. While it’s not an easy film to watch due to its subject matter, it does allow audience a chance to see what other countries think about what happened and how it relates to their own feelings. In the end, 11’9”01 September 11 is an extraordinary though chilling film about the horrors of 9/11.
© thevoid99 2011