- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2004

One film provides a positive message of unity. Another dramatizes the president’s difficult days. A third offers sympathy to a nation wounded on September 11 but includes foreign filmmakers’ points of view.

The span of emotions Americans felt on September 11, 2001, is reflected in a batch of films coming to DVD about the terrorist attacks. The tones range from communal and hopeful to raw and provocative.

Arriving today are “7 Days in September,” a heartfelt chronicle of New Yorkers in the week after the attacks, and “DC 9/11: Time of Crisis,” starring Timothy Bottoms as George W. Bush in a drama that begins with a whispered word about the attacks to the president during a school visit and concludes with his resolute speech to the nation the following week.

Michael Moore’s anti-Bush assault, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a $100 million hit that drew record numbers of moviegoers for a documentary, debuts on home video Oct. 5. Three weeks later, “September 11” — a French-produced collection of 11 short films that some critics thought carried an anti-American tone — comes out Oct. 26.

“September 11” presents short films from an international gallery of directors, including Sean Penn, Claude Lelouch, Mira Nair, Ken Loach, Danis Tanovic and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Mr. Loach’s film features an exiled Chilean who writes a letter to families of September 11 victims, expressing sympathy but adding that a U.S.-backed coup in his own country on September 11, 1973, brought a regime of terror and murder to power. Israeli director Amos Gitai’s segment on a suicide bombing is a reminder that his country experiences terrorism on a daily basis.

“The bar would have to be pretty low on your definition of anti-Americanism to call this anti-American,” says Edward Arentz, executive vice president of Empire Pictures, which is releasing the DVD and handled the film’s U.S. theatrical run.

“It feels really directed at the American public as a way of saying, ‘Look, we share your pain,’ and then to further say, ‘but you have to understand some other things about the role of the United States in the world’” Mr. Arentz says.

“DC 9/11” is a behind-the-scenes dramatization as President Bush and his aides cope with a crisis unlike any previously faced by the White House.

“The film itself doesn’t really play on the emotions of 9/11 particularly,” says Lionel Chetwynd, who produced and wrote the film, which aired on Showtime. “It’s really an attempt to show, how do you attempt to make policy in this sort of extreme situation?”

Mr. Chetwynd says he gained good access to the White House to research the movie, including a 53-minute interview with Mr. Bush.

“7 Days in September,” which was seen on A&E;, is a collaborative effort featuring footage from 28 filmmakers, some professionals, some amateurs, to create a portrait of life in New York City in the week after the attacks.

Producer Steven Rosenbaum says he began the project after looking out the windows of his Manhattan production office and seeing incidents of enormous good will, charity and resilience amid people’s grief and anger.

“I think anyone who watches it will come out in the end feeling surprisingly hopeful and really very proud of what we did as a nation and as a city,” Mr. Rosenbaum says.

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