Can 9-11 be a suitable subject for commercial film?

CAN 9-11 BE A SUITABLE SUBJECT IN HOLLYWOOD YET?

It is now (as of 4/2004) about 2-1/2 years after the 9-11 tragedy. Is it an appropriate subject for commercial film?

I believe so. On my hppub site at this link, I document a number of films, some of them cable specials and documentaries, relating to the recent terrorist events, including the October 2002 sniper slayings.

Could a “fictional” dramatic film reenact the actual real time of that morning, with survivors communicating between the struck buildings or even with passengers on flight 93? There have been plans for a docudrama of Flight 93 for network television. Would this be commercially exploiting a tragedy? Eventually the public will be able to deal with this as tragic history, just as it does now with Pearl Harbor and much more recent events. History must always be presented. The capture or death of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri would, I think, make this idea more feasible and acceptable to investors. The day for a feature theater film like this is coming. I now think that the capture or death of these two leaders of Al Qaeda will, in the words of James Baker (Secretary of State in the first Bush administration) happen “sooner rather than later.”

I think that 9-11 probably would not contribute to a suitable logline for a major fictional film (unless treated very carefully for some unusual reason), but 9-11 could provide a background for characters in a post 9-11 (historical fiction) story, and that I believe to be the best way to approach the issue now.

Other Hollywood films have treated terrorism in fictitious scenarios (as with drug dealers) that seem silly given the facts. There have been several major treatments of terrorism in network television series, such as 24 on Fox (a 24 hour real time enactment of a bioterrorism event) and ABC's Threat Matrix, and even NBC's The West Wing, although these dealt with hyptothetical terrorist attacks.

Also, here I want to call attention to the New York Times story May 5, 2004, by Jim Rutenberg, "Disney is Blocking Distribution of Film that Criticizes Bush." That is Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, that supposedly traces ties between and Saudi families before 9-11. Miramax was to distribute the film (about to show at the Cannes Film Festival), but Miramax's owner Disney does not want to distribute a partisan anti-Bush film in an election year. It would seem that Disney is ignoring the financial lesson from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. New Market Films will clean up on that religious controversy, and it looks like (since Miramax is free to find another primary distributor) that it could clean up again. At least New Market is the "obvious" choice. MGM/United Artists was the distributor for Michael Moore's  Bowling for Columbine, which did include a video clip of the second plane hitting the South Tower of the WTC. (As it turned out, Lions Gate Films later became the distributor.)

Sharaon Waxman provides a story, "Disney Sells Film It Shunned to Principals of Miramax" in the May 29, 2004 The New York Times. Apparently Disney has business ties to Florida governor Jeb Bush, so for Disney to benefit from the film would present a legal conflict of interest. Disney will give any incident proceeds from the film to charity, and the film will be distributed by Lions Gate and Focus. I had a parallel situation when I was writing about gays in the military (my first "Do Ask Do Tell" book from 1997) but working for a company that sold life insurance to the military; for details see this link. In business ethics, biting the hand that feeds you is a no-no.

For some reviews of films and television treatments of 9-11 so far, see this link.

(The film may be searchable as "Fahrenheit 911".)

©Copyright 2004 by Bill Boushka, subject to fair use

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