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   WTC:  THE FIRST 24 HOURS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Director:  Etienne Sauret
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Docurama
Features:  Photo Gallery
Length:  48 Minutes, including extras
Release Date:  June 25, 2002

Film ***

At the time of this writing, it has been almost a year since 9/11, and it’s still hard to believe we live in a world without the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  The pain and horror of that day is still as real to me as the day it happened.  They say time eventually lessens the anguish, and I believe that.  It’s just that some things take a lot more time than others.

WTC:  The First 24 Hours is a somber look back at our modern day of infamy in two forms…the original version, which was about 10 minutes in length, and an extended version, which runs about half an hour.  By comparison, I prefer the longer version, as it actually starts with the images of the towers ablaze and falling…though not via the best camera angles we saw on the news, still potent enough to preserve a dark piece of American history for all time.

This film is a study in images with no spoken words.  There are no politics here, no analysis, no objective lessons to be learned…none of the things that make each of our individual experiences with 9/11 so personal.  All we have is a tragedy and the immediate aftermath…it may not be the ideal film to watch today, but someday, our grandchildren will ask about that tragic day, and this disc might just be one we pull out to begin the discussion.

Each picture speaks a thousand words, and it’s hard to say exactly what is the most horrifically mesmerizing.  The sight of the towers falling is an easy choice, but what about the eerily quiet and empty streets of Manhattan?  No traffic, very little noise, no people apart from the rescue workers and clean up crews beginning the work that was only recently completed.  I doubt New York has ever been that still before.  I pray to God it never will be again.

Etienne Sauret both directed and filmed this documentary with an eye for detail.  Look at the shoe shine stands or the weight rooms completely dilapidated and covered in dust and debris and see how quickly an international center for commerce became a ghost town in and of itself.  Look down upon the wreckage from high angles and see how far and wide the devastation really was.  Look at the fireman braving the wreckage, calling out against hope that somebody alive under all that debris would answer.

I don’t know how many Americans will be ready for this film at this time…but at least this disc will be around for when we are ready.

Video ****

The program was shot on video, and judging from the quality, I’d have to guess digital video…it looks terrific from beginning to end.  The level of detail is far greater than you’d expect without using film, including natural looking and well-separated colors.  Even some of the shots that show haze from the smoke and dust maintain integrity and clarity.  Very high marks.

Audio ***

Though the box says stereo, I’m happy to report this disc contains a full 5.1 mix, which, despite the lack of dialogue or music, is very effective.  The dynamic range is particularly impressive; the feature goes from quiet and somber to suddenly brash and loud with no warning, and no distortions or muddling.  Both stages are used for background sounds like rescue vehicles and such.  A quality effort.

Features *

Only a photo gallery.

Summary:

WTC:  The First 24 Hours is a somber look at our generation’s most prolific tragedy and its aftermath…it supplies the images while our hearts and minds provide the commentary.  Time will prove it a valuable commodity in assuring we will never forget September 11, nor will future generations.