Anchored by a VIP dinner-discussion hosted by New York University President John Sexton, Richard Karz's post-9/11 documentary takes the emotional temperature of a variety of New Yorkers on the event's two-year anniversary, Sept. 11, 2003. Sexton's dinner, held at New York City's 100-year-old Surrogate's Courthouse in lower Manhattan, brings together 17 guests of various backgrounds and political persuasions, from novelist Salman Rushdie to Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul McHale, to discuss the far-reaching implications of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Their roundtable discussion is intercut with sequences that follow other New Yorkers, including Yankees manager Joe Torre, vice cop Christopher H. Rising, Dance Theater of Harlem artistic director Arthur Mitchell and funeral director Isaiah Owens, as they go about their daily business and consider the ways in which the up-close experience of terrorism has altered their perception of the world. Though apparently intended as a kaleidoscopic portrait of New Yorkers high and low, the film is weighted toward the wealthy and/or the exceptional, including Iranian-American filmmaker Shirin Neshat, hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, Manhattan County District Attorney Robert M. Morganthau, model Alek Wek, celebrity restaurateur Drew Nieporent, El Diario publisher Rosanna Rosado, Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel, U.N. Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor. That said, they articulate a surprisingly disparate spectrum of experiences and attitudes, and argue their positions with unusual gentility for a time of polarizing loyalties and a general lack of civility in public discourse. The film's division into three parts — "Just an Ordinary Day," "Rude Awakening" and "The Future of the West" — reflects the Hegelian dialectical model of discourse, in which thesis and antithesis produce synthesis. Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria does much of the dialogue's historical heavy lifting, contributing the assertion that Muslim hostility toward America is more than a matter of specific foreign policies. It is, he suggests, a response to the larger phenomenon of a world shaped by the West and, specifically by the U.S., the sole superpower standing after the end of the Cold War. Aimed at the head rather than the heart, Karz's film is intended to encourage wide-ranging thought and promote constructive debate, useful ambitions in a post-9/11 world too often characterized by hard-line ideology and us-against-them thinking.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: NR
- Review: Anchored by a VIP dinner-discussion hosted by New York University President John Sexton, Richard Karz's post-9/11 documentary takes the emotional temperature of a variety of New Yorkers on the event's two-year anniversary, Sept. 11, 2003. Sexton's dinner,… (more)