Sunday, September 6, 2009

9/11: The Falling Man [movie review]

* Originally broadcast on television in 2006; now on DVD
As the eight anniversary of 9/11 approaches, there will be the annual airings of specials and documentaries to mark the occasion. Some are worth watching, such as the powerful 9/11 featuring French brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet and others, while well-intentioned, not so much.
Add 9/11: The Falling Man to your list of must-see works on the subject. The 72 minute film was produced for British television in 2006 and presents one of the more thought-provoking examinations into what happened that day by focusing on the people who jumped from the World Trade Center buildings. Specifically, the film is framed around seeking the identity of the man shown falling to his death in a newspaper photo, which proved to be one of the more moving images from an event that obviously produced many (click on the image to your left to enlarge it). The picture was taken by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew, himself no stranger to historical events as he was one of only a few photographers present in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel when Bobby Kennedy was murdered. The "Falling Man" photo ran in some newspapers on September 12th, but most media outlets shied away from the image completely. Those that published it were met with public outrage and it was rarely seen again in the mainstream media.
Director Henry Singer attempts to find the identity of the mysterious jumper, talking to families who lost loved ones, as well as co-workers of people who might fit the man's description. The approach runs the risk of being exploitative and opening fresh wounds for grieving relatives, but there's an obvious care being taken by Singer to deal with the matter with the utmost respect and empathy.
The film succeeds at shining a light on one aspect of that day that oddly has never been talked about much, despite the fact an estimated 150-200 people jumped to their deaths that morning. New York's coroner office, however, has "zero" as the number of deaths via this means. Their official explanation is that some victims were either "blown out" or "forced out" of the buildings. This film pulls the importance of these people back out from under the rug of historical statistics that the media and society have been reluctant to address, finally giving some of them a human face.
Rating: 8.5/10

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