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102 Minutes That Changed America - Review

102 Minutes That Changed America

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

THERE have been countless documentaries capturing the events of September 11, 2001… but most have been delivered with the benefit of hindsight.

102 Minutes That Changed America is unique in that it provides a real-time account of that fateful, world-changing day as seen through the eyes of the New Yorkers who experienced it.

The film is made up entirely of footage from more than 100 sources… most of it from hand-held cameras. It’s raw, often shaky, yet incredibly visceral and horrifyingly real.

Much of it comes from the streets surrounding the World Trade Center, some of it comes from apartment blocks and – most alarmingly – there is even footage taken from people as they exit the lower floors of the towers following the impact of both planes.

There is no commentary and the footage lasts from the moment the first tower was hit to a few minutes after the collapse of the second building. Needless to say, it’s exhausting viewing… and viewer discretion is advised as many of the scenes will shock. The film is the closest a person can ever come to being there on the day, without having experienced 9/11 first-hand.

The events of 9/11 remain forever etched into our subconscious. They were world-altering and life-altering. And yes, they were completely devastating.

In the years since, countless filmmakers have attempted to make sense of them, providing commentary and expert analysis. Films have been made dealing with the actual events (United 93 and World Trade Center being the most notable), others have been made that reflect the repercussions (Rendition, Saving Grace, Lions For Lambs, etc), while each anniversary sees a new set of documentaries prepared to relay acts of heroism, conspiracy theories or subsequent scandals involving some of the people involved.

102 Minutes That Changed America is a raw, unflinching reminder of the moment it took place. And the impact upon New York and its people is both gripping and terrifying.

Everywhere, people are seen looking up in disbelief. A woman screams in an apartment as she captures the moment the second tower is hit and realises that the collision was no accident. Her reaction is guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine.

Elsewhere, firemen are heard reaching survivors on the 70th floor of the Tower as colleagues attempt to reach them for support; a dispatch controller is heard to tell WTC workers to stay put as rescuers attempt to reach them; crowd members convene in Times Square to watch the events on big screens and vent their anger at those who could have perpetrated the atrocities.

Finally, as the towers come down, we get to witness first-hand the terror of what it must have been like to become enveloped in the dust clouds from the collapse. It’s like watching the aftermath of a volcanic explosion… and all around there are people screaming, running and struggling to breath. It’s suffocating and distressing.

Produced by Nicola Rittenmeyer, 102 Minutes That Changed America is both powerful and moving. It’s an astonishing documentary that, quite possibly, offers the ultimate insight into the events of 9/11. It should not be missed by anyone who cares, or is interested, about the moments that shaped the world in which we live today.

It may leave you feeling cold and emotionally shattered for some time afterwards, but its intent and importance is clear: we will not forget and we must not forget the reality of what it is like to experience the effects of terrorism at its most savage and indiscriminate.

102 Minutes That Changed America is being screened on History (formerly the History Channel) on Monday, March 23, 2009, at 9pm.