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French film on 9/11 set to create ripples at Venice festival

Shasta Darlington (Reuters)

Posted: Sep 06, 2002 at 1238 hrs IST

The Venice Film Festival is likely to court controversy today with the screening of a film about the September 11 attacks containing some stridently anti-American views just a week before the tragedy’s first anniversary.

Audiences will see a preview of the French production, 11’09’01 September 11, that explores the attacks on America from 11 different viewpoints, some of which are sure to shake up the festival and provoke heated debate.

Directors from 11 countries — including Britain’s Ken Loach, America’s Sean Penn and India’s Mira Nair — have shot 11-minute segments that convey their thoughts on the suicide hijack attacks which left more than 3,000 people dead in the United States a year ago.

‘‘The size of the drama made me wonder about the way other people and their cultures had received the shock wave and why the television media did not propose a universal vision of the echoes of September 11,’’ French producer Alain Brigand, who dreamt up the project, said in a written interview.

‘‘Thus I proposed to 11 renowned directors that they look towards their own cultures, their own memories, their own stories, their own language.’’

According to US Entertainment magazine Variety, some of the contributions are ‘‘stridently anti-American.’’

Brigand says he had encouraged complete freedom of speech knowing that the film would not be immediately screened in the United States ‘‘while the American people are still mourning.’’

As a result, no US distributor has been signed up for the movie yet, though Brigand said ‘‘several’’ distributors had expressed an interest further down the road.

Egyptian director Youssef Chahine reportedly contributed the most critical segment, which accuses the US of carrying out atrocities in the name of foreign policy. The US education director defends his work in the film’s promotional material.

‘‘Can one resent a fervent lover of the USA who feels cheated and angered at watching his dream transgressed again and again with total impunity?’’

Loach’s segment also takes a swipe at US foreign policy by focussing on another anniversary that falls on September 11: General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 military coup in Chile, which was backed by the Richard Nixon administration and led to years of repression, torture and institutionalised murder in the South American country.

‘‘The United States Government cannot act in the way it has done for many years without collecting enemies from all parts of the world,’’ Loach said about his piece.

Bosnia’s Danis Tanovic, director of No Man’s Land and the Mexican director of Amores Perros, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu also contributed to the film.

Penn said his film will try to convey the message that ‘‘loss comes every day and pain follows it. The question has always been how to be at peace with today and believe tomorrow can be better.’’

The film is showing out of competition at Venice. It will open in French theatres on September 11 and can be seen by North American audiences at the Toronto film festival on the same date.

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