Documentary Director Fears Fictionalization of 9/11
By Sue Zeidler
July 20, 2006
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The director of a new documentary on September 11 fears that two upcoming Hollywood dramatizations of the World Trade Center attacks may eclipse her project.
“I hope the truth does not get lost amongst the fiction,” Linda Ellman, a former NBC News producer, who made her film directorial debut with “On Native Soil,” told Reuters.
“I don”t have a problem with fictionalized stories or fictionalized efforts about 9/11, because people need to be kept aware and should never forget. I just hope the truth isn”t replaced by fiction, because the truth is shocking,” she said.
Ellman was referring to film director Oliver Stone’s upcoming “World Trade Center,” a drama about two police officers trapped under the smoking rubble of the collapsed buildings, opening nationwide on August 9, and the ABC television network miniseries “The Path to 9/11,” debuting on September 10.
Unlike those works, Ellman’s goal with “On Native Soil,” airing next month on cable channel Court TV, was to stay true to the 9/11 Commission Report — the government’s account of the suicide hijackings that killed about 3,000 people — and present an historically accurate version of events as they unfolded, almost in real time.
All of these films, as well as other documentaries and television specials, are being released to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the attacks.
Ellman was approached by producer Jeff Hays to direct the project with a budget of just over $1 million, and immediately saw opportunities and challenges.
“Millions of copies of the book had been sold, but nobody was reading it,” Ellman said.
567 PAGES, ONE TRUE TALE (SIC)
After plowing through the 567-page “9/11 Commission Report” in late 2004, Ellman set out to capture the story of victims’ families who were key in pressing the government to form the bipartisan panel that investigated the tragedy and recommended reforms.
“My goal was to expose the truth about 9/11 that’s been hiding in plain sight. When it became clear to me that there almost wasn’t a 9/11 Commission had it not been for this small group of people, that was even more upsetting,” she said.
Ellman said one of the biggest challenges was winning the families’ trust. She contacted each, one by one, and conducted what became “deeply personal and painful” interviews.
Court TV bought the rights to broadcast the film, whose full name is “On Native Soil: The Documentary of the 9/11 Commission Report,” to air on August 21.
Lionsgate Entertainment plans to release the film on DVD on August 22.
The movie, narrated by Kevin Costner and Hilary Swank, includes never-before-seen interviews with victims’ family members, as well as familiar footage of the day’s events, Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan declaring his intentions on television in 1997 and former White House counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke telling victims’ families, “Your government failed you.”
Another scene features badly burned survivor Harry Waizer saying about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “She will not acknowledge that (the government) made a misjudgment. And that galls me. That angers me.”
Other scheduled programs dealing with the September 11 attacks include CNN’s “In the Footsteps of Osama bin Laden,” National Geographic Channel’s “The Final Report: Osama’s Escape,” and the History Channel’s “The Miracle of Stairway B.”
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