Anguish over Sept. 11 lingers, yet filmmakers slowly are overcoming an early reticence to address the attacks with a growing number of projects examining the horrors and heroes and even finding rays of humor in the tragedy.
Leading the way are two yet-untitled projects, Oliver Stone’s big-screen tale starring Nicolas Cage in the story of two New York City rescuers involved in the World Trade Center aftermath and an ABC miniseries chronicling the terrorist attacks.
The Toronto International Film Festival features a handful of films that, with the initial shock of Sept. 11 wearing off, now are beginning to incorporate the events in historical context as facts of everyday life.
“It takes artists awhile both to digest current events and get films made. This lag of four years makes sense, if one was going to predict accurately when we would start seeing these kinds of films,” said Noah Cowan, Toronto festival co-director.
Among the Toronto films: “The War Within,” a chilling portrait of an Arab student falsely detained as a terrorism suspect who seeks revenge against the United States by joining a terrorist cell that plots a new wave of Sept. 11-like attacks around New York City, the targets including Grand Central Station.
Another Toronto entry, “Sorry, Haters,” stars Robin Wright Penn as a troubled, angry New Yorker who forges an unlikely bond with an Arab taxi driver, the relationship set against the backdrop of post-Sept. 11 Manhattan.
Silverman takes on taboo topicsIn her performance film “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic,” comedian Silverman takes on a range of taboo topics — AIDS, the Holocaust, race relations — with a fierce politically incorrect attitude.
Regarding Sept. 11, Silverman jokes that American Airlines missed out on a good marketing slogan: “American Airlines: First through the towers.” She also kids that Sept. 11 was especially trying for her because it was the same day she learned that the soy lattes she had been drinking daily had a whopping 900 calories.
Silverman said it took her a long while after Sept. 11 before she could think about including material on the attacks in her act but that eventually the need for humor won out.
“I always want to laugh at the sad stuff. You don’t need to laugh at the other stuff,” Silverman said. “I’m not numb to these things. I still go into really dark periods about Sept. 11. I think it’s kind of like bullies. Bullies are just scared and thin-skinned, so they have to become bullies as a kind of survival tactic. I think comics are that way, too.”
Other films related to Sept. 11 are finding their way into theaters, onto television and on DVD. The documentary “The Flight That Fought Back” — examining United Airlines Flight 93, whose passengers died in a crash after they foiled one of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 — played in a handful of movie theaters in advance of its TV debut.
“Flight From Death: The Quest for Immortality,” a documentary that includes a segment on how the Sept. 11 attacks wounded the American psyche, came out this week on DVD.
“Answering the Call: Ground Zero’s Volunteers,” a documentary about emergency personnel that mobilized on Sept. 11, is playing at memorial screenings this month in several cities.
“Protocols of Zion,” which opens theatrically in October, looks at a surge in anti-Semitism that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.