As I mentioned before, I’ve been shunning away from 9/11 materials for obvious reasons. I heard about this movie before, and my dad mentioned the Sean Penn segment in a talk, so I thought I should watch it. Recorded it from Sundance a while ago and got to watch it at last.

The 11 segments, each one is 11-minute 9-second, are uneven, but I’m glad that most don’t show 9/11 footage directly, so it’s a bit easier for me to watch. In general I think it’s a great and profound effort. I would probably never want to see those Hollywood movies about 9/11, which would probably only make people cry and/or cringe. What we need is sincere and thoughtful reflections on history and humanity like this movie. 9/11 is but just one atrocity out of the countless that have been afflicted upon us by ourselves. Its aftermath only makes it sadder, not more terrible.

  1. Samira Makhmalbaf, Iran
    The way that the Afghan refugee kids talk seems a bit fabricated–maybe they didn’t use those words in such a way as shown in the subtitle, which is too coherent and thoughtful for them. The young Iranian teacher is also a bit too considerate: she thinks US will bomb them, even with atomic bomb, yet she forces the children to lament for WTC. Of course I wish people are considerate and tolerant like her, but it just doesn’t seem quite possible now.
  2. Claude Lelouch, France
    A bit predictable and stale story, and one thing kind of weird and unnatural is that subtitle goes on even when there’s no sign/text/sound going on, like we’re reading the script while watching a pantomime, instead of figuring out what’s going on from the mime itself.
  3. Youssef Chahine, Egypt
    Very contrived, but it touches the fundamental problems and questions in the world of conflicts today, which make me really pessimistic at times: people remember history only when they want to, while not learning about humanity and tolerance from all the bloody history lessons at all.
  4. Danis Tanovic, Bosnia
    Director of No Man’s Land. The segment took place in the town of Srebenica, where Serbs massacred 8,000 Muslim men on July 11, 1995.
  5. Idrissa Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso
    The lightest segment. Again the boys didn’t act very natural, but it’s fun to see how they gather up their toy weapons (spears and water gun) to catch the “Bin Laden”.
  6. Ken Loach, UK
    General Pinochet led a coup that overthrew and killed Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973, also a Tuesday. Allende won the election only by a very slight margin (top 3 candidates: 36.2, 34.9, 27.8), and his socialist policies are arguable, but the Pinochet regime turned out as one of the more ruthless and totalitarian ones of the last century. Remember Sting’s elegant elegy “They Dance Alone” in my favorite album of his, “…Nothing like the Sun”:

    Hey Mr. Pinochet
    You’ve sown a bitter crop
    It’s foreign money that supports you
    One day the money’s going to stop
    No wages for your torturers
    No budget for your guns
    Can you think of your own mother
    Dancin’ with her invisible son

  7. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico
    The only direct and brutal account of WTC itself. I don’t like it partly because the overlapping voices is pretty cliche. At the end it shows a line “Is God’s light guiding us or blinding us?” And all I want to say is that “God’s light” is the problem in the first place.
  8. Amos Gitai, Israel
    The suicide car bombing in Jerusalem looks darn real.
  9. Mira Nair, India
    It has the most complete storyline, but it’s a bit predictable so not as moving as some others.
  10. Sean Penn
    This is the most delicate and interesting segment. There can be many different interpretation. I’m very curious why Sean Penn was chosen out of hordes of American directors, but what a great piece he turned in.

    I don’t think realistically there’s a residential window blocked by WTC. There’s hardly any residential building around WTC, let alone a window on the north-west side (judging from the direction of sunlight when the towers collapsed) of WTC that was constantly blocked. And the flower nirvana is more unrealistic–but the whole segment is about unreal reality, or is it a real dream?

  11. Shohei Imamura (今村昌平)
    I’ve never seen any of his movies (shame on me), but from what I read about them this segment is quite consistent. It has nothing to do with 9/11, but of course the last sentence “There is no Holy War” transcends all ages.

UPDATE: My Dad reminded me that Ken Loach won this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes with The Wind That Shakes the Barley, his first major award. He was nominated many times before.