Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Thoughts on “The Path to 9/11”

with 2 comments


There’s been lots of arguing from various fronts about ABC’s decision to cut and / or trim scenes from the mini-series / film The Path to 9/11 that aired Sunday and Monday.  The short of things runs something like this:

Former president Bill Clinton, and a handful of those involved in his administration that are depicted in the film, are portrayed unfavorably.  A small number of scenes in which their characters appear, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, never took place. 

Therefore, due to consistent pressure from Clinton, and other members of Congress, ABC trimmed the film by about 20 minutes.  Libertas has written plenty about this, so I’ll leave it to you to read more over there if you’re so inclined. 

There are two things on which my mind lingers on this matter, so bear with me while I try to sort through them.  First, we’re a scant five years removed from the most atrocious tragedy of my generation.  With such little time between the event and the dramatic interpretation of that event, it does seem important to accurately illustrate the apparent facts of the story.  The film itself spans eight years, beginning with the ’93 WTC bombing.  That’s a lot of material to cover inside a five hour running time.  Which leads me to my next thought…

If a film is not a documentary, then it falls into that fickle category of an adaptation.  Now, books are adapted to film all the time, as are the true life stories of people and events.  Some of them are relatively accurate while others border on complete fabrication.  We can debate the ethical civility of this all we want, it doesn’t change the fact that film, being a visual medium (and mindful of an audience’s attention span), must follow certain parameters if it is to tell a story well.  Many times, in the case of portraying a real, historical event, it means compressing time and characters, and creating fictional dialog and / or scenes.  In other words, it takes the very things for which the filmmakers of this mini-series were catching heat. 

Now, the dilemma…

The film itself, especially for a made-for-TV effort, is rendered exceptionally well by everyone involved.  The characters are compelling; the dialog, crisp.  Judged solely on its artistic merit, it falls well ahead of the curve.  And in case you were wondering, the film remains very critical of both the Bush, and
Clinton administrations


Given that some of the scenes are fabrications; given the heated nature of the current political climate; given that the event portrayed is so significant and so recent, the film is misleading. 

Now, if we were to make a list of every misleading film based on historical material, printed or otherwise, we’d have a long list.  One of the more glaring examples I’m aware of is Spielberg’s Amistad.  The story itself is relatively true, and it hits the broad picture.  It’s a good film.  But if we were to haggle over the accuracy of the details, I think it’s important to note that Morgan Freeman’s character in the film never existed.  And let’s not even begin with

Changing a film in regard to the reactions of a screening audience is one thing.  Political pressure from government officials is another, and it does give me pause.  The implications on this matter touch so many topics across the arts and the nature of political and governmental involvement—including issues of censorship and free speech—that for now, I’m left befuddled. 

On the other side of this coin, the cuts that were made did not affect the narrative.  The fabrications did make for compelling storytelling, but therein lays the rub, and what I suppose is the ultimate point of this post: 

If you really want to know the facts, YOU WILL NOT FIND THEM IN A MOVIE. 

Yes, the film is misleading.  I know I felt duped when I learned what details were real and what wasn’t.  I agree that creating those fabricated scenes may not have been the responsible thing to do. 

And, if anyone really is concerned with the facts, they can always read the 9/11 Commission Report, something I intend to do myself. 


Written by taj

September 14, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Movies, stories, Writing

2 Responses

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  1. QuadD00d said:

    And, if anyone really is concerned with the facts, they can always read the 9/11 Commission Report, something I intend to do myself.

    Hey, I’ve got that if you want to borrow it. And yeah, it’s a pretty decent read.


    September 14, 2006 at 4:57 pm

  2. You’re on, buddy. Thanks.


    September 14, 2006 at 5:00 pm

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