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Rebirth - Movie Review - 2011

Moments of Closure Post-9/11

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Rebirth - Movie Review - 2011

'Rebirth' Poster Art

Oscilloscope Pictures
Filmed during nine years after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center, Jim Whitaker's stirring documentary follows five survivors in their intensely personal processes of physical and emotional healing.

Moving On

Jim Whitaker's documentary looks at the 9/11 terrorist attacks from the perspectives of five survivors whose lives were forever changed by the tragic events of that day.

The film doesn't replay the well-known but still shocking footage of airplanes flying directly into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and exploding, nor of the collapse of the massive buildings, nor of the carnage that was exposed and cleaned up during the ensuing months.

Instead, Whitaker guides us to reflect upon the effects of that tragic day -- and, for that matter, of any such overwhelming and tragic incident -- by following his subjects as they struggle to come to grips with their losses and learn to move on. Rebirth is about healing.

Whitaker has commented that he decided to make this film shortly after the death of his mother, and that it reflects his own search for answers to the profound questions about life and death, and his need to grieve.

Rebirth's emotional impact comes from the compelling stories presented by each of Whitaker's lead characters. Each story is specific and unique, yet each can be considered representative of many others.

Characters With Compelling Stories

Ling, a Chinese-American mother of three who was in her office when the planes hit, suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over and through her entire body. These were not surface burns-- Ling was actually cooked! She has survived agony, loss of physical function, disappointing surgeries and other experiences that might have defeated a lesser soul, but Ling carries on with determination, humor and an indomitable spirit and joie de vivre.

Nick, who was a high school student when his mother was killed on 9/11 and who had a truly extraordinary (no spoilers) experience at her funeral, has found ways to alleviate his grieving and overcome his feelings of hatred.

Tim, a NY firefighter who was quickly called to action at the Twin Towers site, has had to overcome the overwhelming guilt he felt at not being able to rescue his best friend and mentor, Captain Terry Hatton, or die along side him when the first tower collapsed.

Brian, a construction worker who had been married atop the World Trade Center, knew that his brother, a firefighter, had been called to duty at the Twin Towers, and rushed to the scene to try to find him, rescue him after the buildings collapsed. Brian stayed on for the entire clean up, and then to rebuild.

Tanya, a lovely woman in her early 30s, was planning her wedding to Sergio, a New York City First Responder, who was killed in the line of duty on 9/11. She must find a way to carry on after the devastating loss of her "soul mate."

Confronting Your Feelings

The point is that Whitaker's compassionate presentation of their struggles to overcome their grief, guilt, pain and rage leads you to confront your own feelings about 9/11 and other such tragedies that have influenced your life and psyche. The film doesn't suggest that anyone forget what happened on 9/11 or deny the ways in which what happened changed lives and society. But it is a very moving and convincing meditation on reconciliation and forgiveness, and reaching the moment of moving on.

In on camera interviews conducted periodically during the nine year period after the 9/11 attacks, the subjects deliver deeply personal status reports about their evolving state of mind and changing circumstances. Linking these chronologically arranged interviews are sequences in which stunning time lapse photography chronicles changes at the World Trade Center site, with the removal of debris and the beginning of construction.

Philip Glass' original score orchestrates the time lapse photography to a stunning effect, reminiscent of the way in which image and score are integrated in the Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi documentaries, which also featured original music by Philip Glass.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Rebirth
  • Director: James Whitaker
  • Premiere: January 11, 2011 at Sundance Film Festival
  • Theatrical Release: August 26, 2011 (limited)
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Location Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Distribution Company: Oscilloscope Pictures
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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