11'09''01 September 11 review

:. Director: Sean Penn, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, various
:. Starring: Maryam Karimi, Emmanuelle Laborit
:. Script: Sean Penn, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, various
:. Running Time: 2:10
:. Year: 2007
:. Country: France


"Eleven filmmakers, eleven looks implicating their individual conscience"... Such is the epigraph of this collective film about the tragic events that occurred a year ago in New York and changed the face of a world, already disturbed, forever.

Some renowned directors with very personal approaches, oscillating between didacticism, relativism and pure moments of cinema, thus lent themselves to the somewhat fixed exercise of short films. The deliberate choice of avoiding a pontificating and solemn commemoration of this historical event is one of the great qualities of this film.

And it's unfortunate that this film has not picked up distribution in the U.S., with the pretext of avoiding Americans from experiencing another traumatizing shock wave.

While watching this collective, one quickly understands that the controversial and militant tone of some of the films would clash with the contemplation of a whole nation. Some directors, such as Ken Loach are holding the United States responsible of the September 11th tragedy. In this last and most eloquent segment of this protean film, he establishes a parallel with another September 11 that in 1973 marked the assassination of Chilean president Salvador Allende and the bloody repression of socialism. Using real footage as a support, the actions committed (with U.S. support) on the Chilean people are denounced with force and emotion. Murders, rapes, tortures and Pinochet's rise to power were the consequences of U.S. involvement in Latin America. The link between these two dates is made with a letter written to American friends by a Chilean condemned to the exile. This relentless lampoon constitutes a shock.

The talented Samira Makhmalbaf gives a lesson of relativism through a teacher, a recurring figure in her cinema. Here, a woman tries to awake the conscience of her young students, Afghan refugees, for whom the destruction of the twin towers is quite remote.

Idrissa Ouedraogo chooses an ironic fable imprinted with irresistible humor: some kids are convinced they saw Ben Laden in Ouagadougou; they foment a plan to capture him and obtain the $25,000 reward promised by the US. With this money, they erect dreams of social progress, including health care. The mother of the young hero has been ravaged by an incurable evil, which is most likely AIDS...

For the American point of view on the tragedy, maestro Sean Penn offers a true moment of cinema, filled with poetry. An old man lives in the memory of his late wife. His days pass, monotonous, until the day when the towers collapse near his apartment. The light penetrates his sanctuary and provokes in him a terrible awareness of loss.

There are certainly some beautiful successes that nonetheless cohabit with failures from Chahine (sententious and self-centered), Gitaï, who offers an unexpected caricature and Lelouch who in an excess of romanticism ("The end of a couple, it's like the end of the world", says the heroin) shows the relationship between a deaf woman (Emmanuelle Laborit) and an American guide. Why choose deafness when blindness would be more appropriate to refer to the events of September 11?

And that's where the best segment from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu, author of the excellent Amores Perros intervenes. The filmmaker deprives us of images, those that were shown ad nauseam. This choice of a black screen, perforated by a blinding light where we can see people jumping from the windows, revives all the horror of this appalling day. Adopting an experimental and radical approach, Iñarritu provides a very dense and gripping soundtrack of the events. The cries, the last phone calls and some litanies are superimposed... It is thrilling, violently emotional and deeply intelligent. A sentence on foggy background closes this powerful short film: "Does God's light guide us or blind us?" To contemplate.

  Sandrine Marques

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