x-posted from the albany project.
Some context on the flip...
Years ago, in another life, I used to run a film festival. In fact, on September 10, 2001 I was resting up after that year's edition had wrapped up the night before. The 2002 edition was already scheduled to be running during the 1st anniversary of an event that had yet to happen.
But we all know what happened the next day. We all remember where we were or what we were doing when the horror of that day began to unfold...
In the summer of 2002, as I was reviewing submissions for that year's festival, I received two collections of short films titled "Underground Zero."
The week after 9/11, filmmakers Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi asked 150 experimental and documentary filmmakers to create a short film or video reflecting their feelings about the tragedy. The result is UNDERGROUND ZERO, which contains eleven shorts that present an emotionally charged alternative to the images and messages put forth by the mainstream media on the subject.
Not all the films were winners, but there were a few that were simply stunning. This is one of those films.
This is the film that ended the collection. It is "Untitled" by filmmaker Ira Sachs.
It is silent. There are no titles or graphics. There's no narration or any embellishment of any kind.
There are simply faces. A man at a birthday party, a wedding, a woman on vacation holding a freshly caught fish, an ID badge photo, a man holding a newborn baby in a hospital, group shots with one face circled by a sharpie. And then we start to see some text next to the faces, often handwritten.
And we realize that we are looking at images from all the fliers and posters that were hastily put together by loved ones of those who we still believed in those first few days were simply "missing." It's easy to forget that 10 years ago not all of our photos were yet digital. These were the photographs in a drawer or an album somewhere, the first photo that a spouse or a parent or a lover or a brother could find in those first few hours - vacation photos, a graduation, a birthday dinner.
These were then crafted, often by hand, into the posters that we saw all over the city, created by those who were trying to believe against all hope that their loved ones were still somewhere wandering this Earth...
All of this rendered as simply as possible. No music, no titles, no explanation, no handholding of the audience.
We screened this collection twice in September of 2002. They were free, un-ticketed events and I hosted both of them. Normally, the host of such a screening would have some words to say afterwards about what the audience had just seen. I really didn't have any words to share either time but I don't think the audiences needed or wanted anything from me after this film ended both screenings. The audiences were stunned silent, often weeping.
Though I did have many people come up and either thank me or simply shake my hand. In that first year, that date had become all about Afghanistan and al Queda and the PATRIOT Act and a war without end. I think people welcomed the opportunity this film provided to remember that all this was spectacle, bloody spectacle at that and that that date was really about - and always would be - people, those lost and those who remained.
I've been trying to find this film again ever since. Its simplicity, its lack or ornamentation, its lack of rage or bloodlust or disaster porn really moved me the first time I saw it 9 years ago and it still moves me profoundly today, maybe even more so. It's simply the most powerful, yet simple piece of media I've ever encountered on this subject.
Watch it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.