Underground Zero
May 2002

Underground Zero:
Independent Filmmakers Respond to 9/11

YOU TIRED OF watching channel zero in the days after Sept. 11, and so did local filmmaking powerhouses Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi. So they sent out a proposal, asking friends and colleagues to come up with short films as quickly as they could for a program that would help us all sort through the aftermath.

The initial results are in, and the San Francisco Cinematheque presents Underground Zero this week with the first of a few series of films that unravel the monotone messages of mass media. Opening with Frazer Bradshaw's The End of Summer – which uses sunny stills of suburbia as a backdrop to a child's perspective on the attacks ("Maybe they were mad at New York?") – Rosenblatt and Zahedi's curated program complicates the issues and the aesthetics surrounding Sept. 11. Norman Cowie's take on TV news is boiled down to science in Three Scenes from an Endless War, which – Feed-style – toys with the TV talking head, adding satiric takes on the screen crawl and the media penchant for "branding" tragedies and relentlessly reselling them.

The program shows the disturbed personal perspective with the inclusion of a personal diary piece by Anne Robertson, linking – nonconspiratorially – her cat, her garden, and 9/11 in the similarly titled My Cat, My Garden and 9/11. And it travels outside the New York-to-L.A. corridor to get geographically unusual perspectives, including China Diary (911), by Eva Ilona Brzeski, which shows a New Yorker on vacation witnessing her neighborhood crumble from the vantage point of China, and Paul Harrill's Brief Encounter with Tibetan Monks, which attempts to find answers – but only produces more questions – from a group of Tibetan monks on tour in the South. Only a few flags wave here, but one of them, in Martha Gorzycki's Unfurling, is animated by stars and stripes that are made from shifting casts of brand names and bar codes. While Zahedi's piece was still in progress at press time, Rosenblatt weighs in with one of the most powerful plays on gesture and metaphor I've ever seen, Prayer, but I won't say more: it's a puzzle best unraveled on your own. Zahedi and Rosenblatt have big plans for the project, which may eventually be shown on TV, Webcast, and displayed in an installation format, but you can get an early view of it this week.


© Copyright 2002. Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi.