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Hamburg Cell - 9/11 drama documentary receives world premiere at Edinburgh



Story by: Jack Foley

A FILM depicting the events leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks, which is due to be shown on Channel 4 on September 2, received its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival on Wednesday, August 25, 2004.

Drama documentary, Hamburg Cell, directed by Antonia Bird, chronicles how terrorist, Ziad Jarrah, helped to hijack United Airlines flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, following the New York atrocities.

Bird, who has previously directed Face and Priest, for cinema release, and The Men’s Room, for TV, said that making the drama documentary had represented a completely new experience for her, and she was ‘really intrigued’ to see how viewers reacted to the movie.

She went on to say that her motivation for making the film was discovering how the men in question got involved in terrorism.

And speaking in Edinburgh, she added: "Because of Michael Moore's film [Farenheit 9/11] people are much more open to the whole subject matter than they were a few months ago."

Reaction to it was largely positive, with Empire Online lamenting the fact that one of the best films of the festival would not be shown in cinemas, but rather on TV.

It also declared that the world needs films such as Hamburg Cell, if only to gain some understanding of the world today. The line between society and the people who commit such atrocities is not as clear as some would imagine.

Speaking at a Q&A immediately after the film, writer, Ronan Bennett, maintained that ‘whatever they did, they are still human beings - a natural response is to say they're fanatics, but we know it's more complicated than that’.

And therein lines the core talking point of the film, which audiences are likely to find themselves divided over.

The film is said to begin with Jarrah telephoning his family to tell them he loves them before boarding the fateful flight.

It then follows his journey from being a student, in Hamburg, through to his conversion to jihad and his eventual death as a hijacker. Along the way, it examines his attempts to reconcile his new faith with his previous character.

Actor, Karim Saleh, who portrays Jarrah, commented that while he continues to be as shocked about the attacks as he was when the news first broke, he now had more information about who the people responsible for perpetrating them really were.

"I learnt about how those people are looked at and how those events affected people emotionally and psychologically," he told BBC Online.

Audiences will be able to make up their own minds when the film is screened on Channel 4 on September 2.

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