Friday, September 12, 2008

Sunday Night at 8

History Channel doesn't need my help promoting one of their specials, but 102 Minutes That Changed America deserves to be seen by all who can bring themselves to re-live that horrific morning. Using video from 100 different sources, this documentary pieces together mostly amateur footage of New York's 9/ll, from the first wounded skyscraper to the sight of dazed Gothamites stumbling through the fresh rubble of an American dream. If you think you've seen all the video from the aerial attack on the World Trade Center, you're wrong. 102 Minutes presents a chronological pastiche of that morning, expertly edited and unburdened by narration. The result is total immersion; even though you know exactly how it's going to end, you can't help but hurt alongside strangers as they stare up at the impossible and mumble new conclusions.

Of course watching others suffer could be considered ghoulish and if it 102 Minutes weren't so devoid of politics I might even agree. But cut as it is with no visible slant, this television special approaches the level of historical document. Arguably the most powerful moments are those spent inside a high-rise apartment as two girls react to the second plane's fiery impact. Their panicky camera and off-cameras screams bring to mind the Blair Witch Project, except it's much more frightening - because it's undeniably real. I was also struck by the mesmerizing street level close-ups ofshcoked citizens. Shots like that are hard to watch and even harder to shoot. Whoever knew to turn their back on the pyrotechnics and focus on the faces did history an invaluable service, for those simple images help explain 9/11's impact in a way that distorted memories and overblown prose cannot.

So skip the popcorn, but watch 102 Minutes That Changed America. It's footage that simply shouldn't be forgotten and perhaps the strongest case for citizen journalism I've yet seen.


sitbonzo said...

thank you. very moving and interesting.


Kerry said...

I saw this on the Aus/NZ History Channel, where it was called 'Witness to 9/11'. And yes, it was amazing, and what started off as channel-flipping quickly became gripping viewing.