Saturday, September 11, 2004

Mira Nair's Unknown 9/11 Film

Viewer's of Vanity Fair might be interested to track down a copy of Mira Nair's short docudrama about 9/11, one episode in an anthology film, which according to Tom Plate in the Straits Times, is not being shown in the US:

"Grieving Americans, shocked to discover that not everyone reacted to the World Trade Center massacre the same way, might want to see 11'09'01 September 11. It's an anthology, of sorts, from directors in 11 countries. The Egyptian contribution, by director Youssef Chahine, contains dialogue making the case for terrorist attacks against the US and Israel. India's Mira Nair tells the story of a Pakistani-American who died helping firefighters at the World Trade Center and who, posthumously, became the target of an anti-terrorist probe simply because, as his mother puts it, 'his name wasn't Jesus'- or David or Cary. Curtains go up on the controversial film in France on Sept 11. Americans who want to see it, at this point, will have to go there. It has yet to find a US distributor. Might this be a foretaste of US cultural protectionism? What an unwanted surprise ending that would prove. "

Here are some more details on the film, from ApunKaChoice.Com:

"Mira Nair's vignette dramatises the real life story of Salman Hamdani, an American Muslim medical student who went missing in New York City after the attack and later became a terrorist suspect. The all-American upbringing of the boy came to naught as his family saw neighbours and friends turn against them. Finally, it turned out that Salman had died helping people out of the World Trade Center tower that day. The members of the youth's family took part in the film.

"Nair was later quoted as saying that she wanted to make a film about the reality of life for South Asians in New York City after September 11. 'Life has changed irrevocably, and I think forever. From New York to Jenin to Gujarat, the Islamophobia that has taken over the world disturbs me immensely. As a filmmaker, I thought it was about time we spoke up,' the director of such popularly acclaimed films as 'Salaam Bombay' and 'Monsoon Wedding', told an ethnic Indian newspaper in the US."

Shahid Nahim reported that Nair's 9/11 docudrama was banned in the USA, in Pakistan's Daily Times:

"In the discussion that followed, Mira Nair revealed that the American film distribution association refused to distribute the film. According to them, the film is controversial and political. Hence the Columbia screening might be the only screening in the US. This effective banning of the film has come from Hollywood, which is notorious for making films about disasters and tragedies that have taken place all over the world. The film has been shown in Europe and other parts of the world and has been well received. It is a shame that the US public is unable to see the film � they need to see films of this kind more than any other nation. It is the US public that needs to learn how the rest of the world looks at them and their government. It is they who need to find out that there are other perspectives, other prisms through which events like 9/11 look very different indeed. 9/11, the film, does not present things as black and white or good and evil, unlike the US version of 9/11, where all good lies on one side and all evil on the other. "