Underground Zero
September 6, 2002

Dramatic films deal with 9/11, one year later

By John Petrakis

As the one-year anniversary of the destruction that rained down on Sept. 11, 2001, approaches, Chicagoans, like their counterparts across the country, will have to decide how to commemorate that tragic day.

Two of the premier art film houses in town have chosen to commemorate 9/11 by showing films that deal with the event itself and/or reactions to that day.

Underground Zero

At the same time that WTC Uncut is playing at the Film Center Wednesday night, Facets Multimedia will be screening both parts of Underground Zero (***), a collection of short cinematic responses to Sept. 11.

The shorts were compiled by San Francisco filmmakers Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi, who, just a week after the plane crashes in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, sent out over 150 requests to independent filmmakers across the country. To their amazement, they received 65 responses in a matter of months.

The 30 films that comprise both parts of Underground Zero are fascinating for the way they reveal the mind of the artist -- which aspect of the tragedy struck them which way.

Part I, for instance, contains an inventive piece called China Diary (911) by Eva Ilona Brzeski, who was in China with her mother when the attacks occurred. She ties in her discomfort at being so far from home at such a terrible time, to the distance she always felt from her grandfather, a man who helped design the World Trade Center.

Valerie Soe's Carefully Taught concerns Soe's futile attempts at understanding the political reasons behind the attacks, laid over a montage of Hollywood musicals, representing the huge impact that our culture has had on the rest of the world. For better and for worse.

And Jay Rosenblatt's Prayer, which is the most moving movie in either part, employs his familiar found-footage technique to show humble supplicants from various religions down on their knees, seeking help from a higher power.

Part II's highlights include Chel White's New York, an eerie paean to the city itself; Ashes to Ashes, a mini-documentary by Barbara Klutinis that examines the work of artist Rebecca Haseltime, whose mesmerizing art in charcoal and ash are perfectly suited for 9-11 memories; Meal, by Cathy Crane and Sarah Lewison, which focuses (both literally and figuratively) on the Pizza Hut where terrorist Muhammad Atta ate his last meal; and Unfurling by animator Martha Gorzycki, whose visual permutations on the American flag are both beautiful and revealing.

Copyright © 2002 The Chicago Tribune.


© Copyright 2002. Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi.