I attended the screening of On Native Soil at the Time Warner Center last night, and I thought hosting the screening in New York was a good venue for Court TV to premiere its new documentary about the 9-11 Commission. What surprised me, however, was that so many of the victim's families used the event to vent their varied frustrations to a filmmaker who tried to give voice to their concerns with this documentary. I thought the focus should have been the film.
Helmed by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Linda Ellman, On Native Soil offers a unique take on the events of Sept. 11 composed of emergency call tapes and videotaped testimony of family members in front of the 9/11 Commission.
The film also features interviews with Mary Fetchet, the founding director of Voices of September 11th, whose 24 year-old son died while working in the World Trade Center.
Much of the chilling footage of the events at the World Trade Center elicited audible gasps and sniffling from audience members. As someone who was not in New York at the time of the attacks, it was a really powerful experience for me to be around so many people directly affected by this tragedy. There were occasional instances of shocked and weary laughter as some footage seemed to suggest moments of obvious incompetence among control towers, government agencies and emergency workers. With precision, Ellman paves a chilling path the reveals that the damage done on 9-11 could have been averted or, at the very least, lessened.
Following the screening, family members in the audience used a Q&A session with Ellman to outwardly express their frustration and call for more action to be taken as advised by the 9/11 Commission. At times it felt as though the audience had commandeered the session, but Ellman was able to make her point that the film “was put together to make people aware,” of what happened. She went on to explain that she compiled hundreds of 10-15 second sound bites into a 24-hour documentary. In order to put it on TV, she had whittled the footage down to 88 minutes. “Much of the testimony has been redacted or held secret,” she said. “This was a start.”
On Native Soil premieres on Court TV on Monday, Aug. 21st at 10 p.m. ET. The DVD, distributed by Lionsgate, will be available for sale the following day to the public. It includes 90 minutes of bonus footage.
—By MELANIE M.CLARKE