03 January 2009

'9/11 Press for Truth': An Uneven Critique of the Commission

Unlike many other films and television programs about 9-11, this documentary places some of the family members at the center of the narrative regarding the post-attack investigations. It thus begins to tell the sort of story I will present in No Truer Hearts. But while the makers of 9/11 Press for Truth have their hearts in the right place regarding most matters, the film suffers from a sometimes confusing lack of focus and clarity, raising intriguing questions on the one hand, but leaving many others frustratingly unanswered. 

But my biggest quibble is that the film perpetuates the popular notion that "The Jersey Girls" were the main driving force in the family member movement, and that they alone fought for the creation of the 9-11 Commission, and attempted to guide its activities. If you watch this film and read many other accounts, including the article about them in the notoriously dicey Wikipedia.com, you would hardly suspect that there were other members of the Family Steering Committee, or, indeed, other active family members at all! Certainly the Jersey Girls deserve what accolades they have received. Their hard work, dedication, sacrifice and effectiveness are an important part of the story I'll be telling. The only difference is that my version will be more complete and accurate than most of what has passed for reporting on the subject to date.

I don't want to dwell on the negatives, since this is definitely a film worth watching, but I when I wrote "lack of focus," I wanted to point out that the director tries to take the viewer in too many directions at once. On the one hand, we are told by the subheading on the DVD's cover that the film is "The coverup exposed by the 9/11 families." And indeed we are shown how the Jersey Girls and their family allies raised important questions and uncovered facts about the attacks and their aftermath. But a large part of the film also showcases the work of Paul Thompson, who is not a 9-11 family member, but who has performed a great deal of research on the subject on his own, which appears on a website and in a book, The Terror Timeline. I found both strands interesting and useful, but felt the movie's message would have been more effective and clear if the relationship between Thompson and the Jersey Girls was explained. 

The story of the 9-11 family members and other activists is a complicated one, and most writers think that most readers just can't do complicated. And so they write simple stories and perpetuate easily digestible myths, which often obscure more than illuminate. I beg to differ. Life is filled with rich narratives driven by complex characters. It just takes a little extra effort by writers to present these tales, and by readers to absorb them.

Here is the film's page on iTunes. The film also has a presence on Myspace and Facebook.

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