Ten years ago, on what was then the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I felt compelled to write down my memories of that day, and the complicated family odyssey that followed. Anyone who was in New York on that day has stories to tell, and I wanted to make sure to preserve mine before the details became too fuzzy. I consulted my wife and a few other key participants to make sure I got things as accurate as possible, and wrote it all down. Now, here we are another 10 years later, and the story still conjures up so much emotion that I am sharing it again. Here is the story of our family odyssey…
The following is a panel I moderated at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival about the impact that social issue documentaries can have on society, as well as the responsibilities that come with it. The panelists were Pamela Yates, Paco de Onis, Pau Faus, and Zaradasht Ahmed. The panel was recorded on July 26th and broadcast on the local NPR station in Northern Michigan.
Feel free to comment after the break. Continue reading “2017 TCFF Panel: One great movie lover can change the world”
In yesterday’s New York Times, the showrunners of several current political TV dramas discuss how the outrageousness of current political reality has affected the plotlines of their shows. Some of them talk about how they had to change the direction of the current season to take into account the real-life headlines that, in some cases, might make a plot twist dated or moot. Reading this, I couldn’t help but feel that there’s another side to this—one that these showrunners might not want to face: that these fictional television series have unwittingly aided and abetted a climate of mistrust for government and the rise of “fake news.”
Fictional TV has always had a side that was “ripped from the headlines.” Famously, the “Law and Order” series would take actual tabloid stories and fictionalize them just enough to pass muster without needing the rights to anyone’s particular story.
In recent years, there has been a spate of series that have one underlying theme—cynicism about our government. This list of shows is long, and includes everything from “Madam Secretary” to “The Good Wife” to “House of Cards” to “Homeland” to “Designated Survivor” to “Scandal”—even to “Game of Thrones.” Continue reading “Is “Fake News” Legitimized by “Quality TV?””
Among the many panels and Q&As that I participated in at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival was one entitled, “Equality Now.” It was meant to be both a celebration of the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage and a discussion among the filmmakers who were involved with films that touched on LGBT issues. I was the moderator and the panel turned out to be quite illuminating (if I must say so myself) and even included some fireworks. Fortunately the panels were recorded for posterity, so here it is. I’ll post some others in the next few days…
Comments after the break… Continue reading “Equality Now Panel at TCFF”
Then from the bridge, we got our first glimpse of the new skyline. Beth recalls it being like a blow to the solar plexus. We were both getting choked up. Beth started to cry.
Entering our apartment provided a sense of security that only “home” can provide, no matter that everything outside was now different.
But our little adventure was over. Our hurried trip as a family to Toronto, Chicago and back had served many purposes. Born out of the perceived need to deliver a film print and to deliver our son to college, it turned into a family catharsis. We were able to work through our anger, our fears and a whole host of other issues, and to do it as a family. By staying together, we instinctively knew that whatever was to come, we would deal with it… together. And by staying on the move, we avoided sitting in front of the television and wallowing. In other words, we dealt with this new threat in our lives by staying busy. Continue reading “10 Years Ago…A Family Odyssey (Final Chapter)”
Day Four: Friday September 14, 2001
Bright and early, we piled back into the car for the next leg of our journey. We had a sort of deadline in that Northwestern’s orientation was to begin at 6:00 that evening. I was calculating that the drive from Toronto to Chicago would be about 8 hours, so we would be there in plenty of time.
As we headed toward the border, traffic was getting heavy, and the radio was reporting delays ahead. I remembered the advice I had been given the night before, and we got off the highway and started heading north. It only took about a half hour to get to the border crossing that had been suggested. We passed a few signs and a couple of cute gift shops that confirmed we were on a native Canadian reservation. As we approached the border crossing, we were suddenly in a long line of cars. Even worse, what had not been told to us was that this border crossing required a ferry, which only ran once per hour. So we sat waiting for almost a full hour for the ferry to arrive, then it took another half hour to load the cars aboard, a 15-minute ride across the river, and then some additional time to unload. We had lost significant time. Continue reading “10 Years Ago…A Family Odyssey (part 4)”
Day Three: Thursday September 13, 2001
When I awoke the next morning, Beth was already out and about. I went off to deliver the 35mm print of “Ball in the House” and to arrange for a tech check later in the day. The streets in Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood were not bustling the way they usually are in the middle of the festival. Walking back to the hotel, I ran into Paul Cohen, then the head of Manhattan Pictures. He greeted me with “Have you found a way back to New York yet?” I responded, “I just got here last night.” He said “You’re kidding.” I explained that I had driven up to deliver the print and to premiere my film. He informed me that all the Americans at the festival were gone already or were desperately trying to get home, by whatever means necessary. My heart sank as I realized that whatever hopes we had of making a distribution deal on the film at the festival were pretty much over.
I found Beth back in the hotel room with the kids. She told me she had gotten up early and gone into the underground shopping mall that lies beneath the Marriott to get coffee. She bought a local newspaper, sat down with her coffee and as she started reading, she began to cry. That newspaper was to be the beginning of a collection of local newspapers that she began to acquire as we continued our trip. Continue reading “10 Years Ago…A Family Odyssey (part 3)”
Part 1 of this article can be found here.
Day Two: Wednesday September 12, 2001
When morning arrived, the apartment started to empty out. Subway service had been partially restored, and there was now a way for everyone to get home. Everyone, that is, except for Laura and her kids. Their Tribeca loft was still in a cordoned off zone, and it was unclear how much longer she would be kept from going home.
The phone rang, and it was a perfect stranger. This person wanted to reach out to a New Yorker to express her solidarity, so she dialed 212 and then her own phone number, hoping to reach someone that way. I thanked her for her good wishes, and it crossed my mind that this was the first time I had ever experienced being considered a “victim.” Continue reading “10 Years Ago…A Family Odyssey (part 2)”
It was one of those glorious mornings that the weathermen on TV refer to as “one of the top 10 days of the year.” There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and there was a hint of autumn in the air. The light was crystalline, with every detail in sharp relief.
Beth and I awoke with a lot on our minds.
It was the first day of school for our daughter Emily, who was entering the 10th grade. Our son Jeff was already packed in preparation for his first year of college at Northwestern; he was to fly to Chicago with Beth on Friday. I was about to meet up with my producing partner Stephen Dyer to fly to Toronto for the world premiere of our film “Ball in the House.” It was also Election Day.
My bag was packed and sat in the foyer by the front door of our apartment on the Upper West Side, as I headed out to the polling place down the block. As I was leaving the building, the doorman said, “Did you hear? A plane flew into the World Trade Center.” I turned to him and nodded. I didn’t think much of it, since I knew that over the years, a number of planes had flown into the Empire State Building. I pictured a small Cesna crumpled against the building. Continue reading “10 Years Ago…A Family Odyssey”
I’m ecstatic to report that my son Jeff’s feature documentary “11/4/08” will have its World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March. The film is what he calls a participatory documentary, in that many people contributed footage from around the world, and the film will exist as an ongoing project in which anyone can still submit footage and create their own personal versions of the film.
Also, you can still participate in the film… Continue reading “A Proud Dad”