Monday, September 7, 2009
Footage of the September 11th attacks is still absolutely horrifying. I saw an excellent documentary on Channel 4 tonight- '102 Minutes that Changed America' which was entirely composed of video material from the day, the majority of it shot by random people. There is a slight soundtrack and no narration (apart from the dialogue of the people on and off the camera).
The result is a chilling, immersive depiction in real time of the incredible events that unfolded in those 102 minutes. In using over a hundred different video sources, it takes you on a completely impartial journey through the chaos, confusion and absolute horror of the day. Without intending to be slight, the scenes here are far more dramatic than the most extreme hollywood blockbuster. The exploding planes, the clouds of rising dust- apolcalyptic images that are far more dramatic than any created in cinema.
I know for me, and probably for many people, the image of those towers being hit by the planes is possible the most terrifying thing I will ever see. That shocking moment is captured perfectly in this film. It is both difficult to watch and utterly compelling. The moment that confirmed that it wasn't an accident, the moment that has profoundly affected the past eight years and perhaps the rest of our lives.
Not only does it capture the incredible action, it also depicts the invaluable human reaction. The disbelief of the bystanders, the shock of the camera operators and also the blind rage of many onlookers. It cleverly avoids the shots that we've already seen, repeated hundreds of times in the days and weeks after the event. Instead we see things from a more intimate and immediate point of view.
It was the first major tragedy in the age of amateur video reporters, in the city full of people with cameras. You can tell that some of these people were budding film makers, leaping at a chance to document the incredible scenes around them. And its lucky for us that they did, because combined with a subtle soundtrack and some strong editing, they've helped to create a hugely important historical document on what is likely to be the defining moment of our generation.