Underground Zero
Spring 2002

Disaster Relief

In the weeks following September 11, San Francisco-based filmmakers Caveh Zahedi (I Was Possessed by God, I Don’t Hate Las Vegas Anymore) and Jay Rosenblatt (King of the Jews, Human Remains) came together to find their way out of the media morass that characterized coverage of September 11.

“I felt irrelevant in the couple of weeks after 9/11,” explains Zahedi. “I thought I should do something in film and I mentioned this idea to Jay.” And Rosenblatt, who was experiencing a similar sense of powerlessness, thought putting together a film might prove to be a unifying experience for the two, and for the filmmaking community in general. “We thought that maybe there were others who felt the way we did, people who wanted to see some alternative to the mass media,” says Rosenblatt. “Caveh and I thought that a collective action might be more powerful, so we sent out a letter to filmmakers asking for submissions. We sent out requests hoping to get 110 stories - corresponding to the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.”

In the end, the response went beyond their planned scope, as they gathered nearly 180 submissions for a compilation, entitled Underground Zero. The diversity of voices was wide enough to allow them to create not one, but several overlapping compilations, each addressing different needs. They created two general tapes for theatrical exhibition, one for television, and one intended for political and community outreach. In addition to Zahedi’s and Rosenblatt’s films, the pieces include a wide range of contributions from such filmmakers as Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Freidman, Ira Sachs, Barbara Hammer and Pola Rapaport.

- Peter Bowen


© Copyright 2002. Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi.