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11'09"01 September 11 - film review

Eleven short films of 11 minutes and 9 seconds, by directors from different countries, about September 11...

Ken Loach's film about the "other" September 11, about the Pinochet coup in Chile that started in September 1973, was my favorite. It is almost a documentary, but one framed around a Chilean exile writing a letter of sympathy for the victims of September 11 (2001).

In Makhmalbaf's film, a teacher tries to explain to child workers in a brick factory (Afghan refugees in Iran) what has happened in New York, but they are more interested in a local accident where two people fell down a well. The result is not much of a story, but is carried off by the setting and some fine child actors.

The films of Danis Tanovic (Bosnia) and Amos Gitai (Israel), about a woman survivor of Srebrenica and a Tel Aviv terrorist attack, also have a "we have problems too/bad things happened to us as well" element.

Youssef Chahine's offering (from Egypt) is a rather awkwardly didactic film in which the director himself talks to the ghost of one of the American marines killed in Beirut; I think this is likely to be the most "difficult" film for Americans (if 11'09"01 ever screens in the United States).

Other films are less (overtly) political. Set in the United States, those of Sean Penn (United States) and Claude Lelouch (France) are both domestic pieces, close studies of individuals set in single apartments. Shohei Imamura (Japan) tells the story of a soldier who comes back from the war in China convinced he is a snake... Inarritu's film (from Mexico) is a montage of audio (and some video) pieced together from the events of September 11 itself.

And Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso) has five children chasing Osama bin-Laden around town, after the reward money so they can buy medicine for a sick mother - the result is an entertaining, light-hearted romp.

Overall, it's a very mixed bunch of films. In some ways, however, they work better together than they would independently.

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