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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, September 2002

By Tom White

Dear Readers:

Looking back connotes reflection, contemplation, remembrance. In this issue, we don’t so much look back on September 11—it’s all around us, every day—as look forward, while looking back, on that indelible tragedy. Over the past year, the documentary community has responded as it always responds: with the right mix of moxie, ingenuity, circumspection, and responsibility. We’ve delved beneath the collective shroud of uber-patriotism and uncovered hundreds of stories from hundreds of communities. We’ve learned a lot—about faith and religion, about power, about terror, about war—those who wage it, those who fight it, and those who suffer the most from it—about loss and grieving, about security and civil rights, about structural engineering, about bioterrorism, about ourselves. And we have a lot more to learn.

Such programs as 9/11 and In Memorium: New York City, 9/11/01, which aired on CBS and HBO, respectively, to great acclaim and an unprecedented viewership for documentary programming, crystallized the horror and humanity of that day. Discovery, The History Channel, National Geographic and CNN have all explored the context in which 9/11 happened; such PBS flagship programs as Frontline and NOVA have ramped up their post-9/11 programming with Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero and Why the Towers Fell, both airing this month; and VH-1 has presented RJ Cutler’s Military Diaries, in which American soldiers share their stories, via video cameras, from the battlefront. Major festivals and markets around the world have curated programs addressing September 11—not as a matter of course, but more as a matter of demand, from filmmaker and viewer, to understand, discuss and process.

Steve Rosenbaum, whose company CameraPlanet has amassed an enormous collection of video images related to September 11, shares his thoughts on our continued responsibility as filmmakers—and as distributors and programmers—to bring these stories to the general public. Jana Germano looks at how the independent filmmaking community has been instrumental in mining the unheard stories from overlooked communities, post-9/11, streaming them on the Web, showcasing them in galleries and festivals across the country, and airing them on mainstream outlets like PBS and HBO.

Chuck Workman, who made The Sprit of America, about images of America in movies, in response to September 11, begins a series of “Tales from the Trenches” pieces chronicling his progress through two very different documentary projects—one, a doc about the history of the West Wing, commissioned by the White House, and the other, a self-financed work in which he will follow various actors in the process of their work, art and craft. In this issue, he discusses the pre-production process—the goals, objectives, intentions and artistic strategies, etc.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White