Independent filmmakers Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi have donated a portion of the proceeds from the sale of two collaborative television programs, entitled “Underground Zero,” to September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of 9/11 family members seeking effective alternatives to war as a response to the terrorist attacks that took the lives of their loved ones.
Presenting thought-provoking, alternative reactions to the events of September 11, 2001, “Underground Zero” began as an invitation to more than 100 filmmakers to contribute short works, ranging from one to ten minutes in length, in response to the tragic events of that day. “If, like us, you are feeling a need to express yourself in these troubling times through art,” they wrote, “and if, like us, you believe that a collective response can be more powerful and effective than isolated individual responses, then we urge you to join us in our effort.”
The effort paid off with “overwhelming” interest from the artists, resulting in the compilation of 31 short films into two “Underground Zero” programs which aired on HBO /Cinemax on September 11, 2002. The films have also been shown, and continue to be shown, at film festivals and screenings throughout the United States, as well as in Italy, Germany, Britain, Ireland, South Korea, Canada and Brazil.
The shorts feature reactions from close to home: in “Isaiah’s Rap,” a 14-year old musician and poet responds to the attack on his New York neighborhood; “21” features a Brooklyn resident’s recollection of being brutally accosted ten days after the tragedies; and an untitled work collects portraits taken from fliers posted on the streets of New York in the days after the tragedies.
There also are views from outside New York: in “China Diary (911),” a filmmaker watches from across the world while the Twin Towers fall a mile from her home; “Fear Itself” presents a horror movie imagined from the Bay Bridge in San Francisco in the wake of the attacks; and “A Strange Mourning” illuminates the fervent display of patriotism gripping those gathered on a street corner in Los Angeles.
“Although we felt shocked and horrified by the attacks and the devastation, we also felt frustrated by the media’s coverage,” recall the producers. “In reaction to the paucity of rational debate and soul searching, we felt a need both to speak out for ourselves and to create a forum for others to speak out for themselves as well.”
September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (www.peacefultomorrows.org) is a non-profit group of family members of September 11 victims from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. David Potorti, who lost his brother, Jim, at the World Trade Center, is Peaceful Tomorrows’ Co-Director and East Coast Coordinator.
“When we launched Peaceful Tomorrows, our primary goals were to create a safe space for open dialogue on alternatives to war, and to recognize our fellowship with other innocent victims,” he said. “The producers of ‘Underground Zero’ have given voice to those whose views have been marginalized by the media, yet whose statements remain powerful expressions of human heart and soul. Our missions resonate beautifully, and we are honored by their support.”
“Underground Zero” (www.undergroundzerofilms.org) is available to institutions and individuals in North America as well as internationally.