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Like most 9/11 filmmakers, Stephen Mudrick and Bryan Kortis never intended to make their film. When Mudrick arrived in the office of Mado productions he looked out the 12th story window and saw both towers already in flames. After quickly setting up a video camera he shot the towers through their collapse and the mushroom cloud of dust and asbestos that replaced them. WTC Uncut is built around 75 nearly-continuous minutes of the towers in flames. With only a cut for a new tape, Mudrick and Kortis present the tragedy as it happens. But the distance of their view, several miles away, gives their images a strange removed quality. The content is unmistakable but no faces are ever seen. The only recognizable human forms are a group of people on the next roof, backs to the camera, watching the same thing. When the south tower crumbles they slap their hands to their foreheads as if to try to contain their panicked sense of helplessness.
The angle also gives the film a sense that it encompasses the breadth of New York architecture. The space between the viewer and the towers is filled with the water towers that inhabit the roofs of many older Manhattan buildings while the focus of the image, the WTC towers themselves, are the epitome of sleek modernity. The contrast would seem clever and quaint if it weren't for the smoking, burning gashes in the newer building.
The visuals of WTC Uncut may be simple and to the point, but the soundtrack paints a much more complex picture. The filmmakers collected sound from a wide variety of sources, both during and over the months following the attack, and edited together a powerful, expansive taste of the anger, confusion, sadness, fear and pride of New Yorkers. The film begins with the sound of New York's news radio station 1010 Wins breaking the news of the attack. While this segment is out of sync with the picture (the announcer talks of only one collision while the visuals already show the damage from both) there is a real urgency to the announcer's voice that brings the shock back in full force.
The soundtrack moves from group prayers to interviews with people on the street to underscore the diversity of people affected. Some voices come from pacifists at candle-light vigils speaking about the futility of military retaliation while others express the desire to find the culprits and put them in the ground. President Bush's first speech (the "apparant terrorist attack" one) pops up at one point. The voice of a young boy refers to the attack as "the accident." Bagpipes play "Amazing Grace." The camera zooms in and out tentatively, panning around to adjacent buildings. It's clear that the filmmakers intended to get raw footage that could be used as individual shots for another purpose, often jarringly restarting a camera move half-way through. All the while the black smoke billows out.
Then at about the 38 minute mark the south tower comes down. The voices take on truly terrified tones. The 1010 Wins announcer is literally speechless, the air going silent for what seems like many seconds. The soundtrack soon adds Arabic chanting and a scuffle between Arab-Americans and hurt, angry non-Arabs, as well as a statement from a woman who can't reconcile her pacifist views with her thirst for revenge.
The full-frame video is obviously culled from a medium-grade video camera. It shows some compression artifacting but overall looks "good." Of course, this piece is not at all about the technical specs of the production.
The audio is PCM encoded track that sounds fine. The audio material comes from a variety of sources and some of them were understandably recorded under less-than-ideal circumstances.
An extensive photo gallery is included that shows the filmmakers at work as well as the sources of many of the audio clips.
The form of WTC Uncut is completely different from any other piece on the subject but through this audacious effort the filmmakers have created a powerful, focused, meditative film.
NOTE: To buy WTC Uncut please visit http://www.madotv.com/wtc-uncut/purchase.html
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