Disturbing 9/11 film is work of Hoosier
By Bonnie Britton
Familiar, disturbing images from five years ago flash by in "9/11: Press for Truth," opening locally Friday at Hollywood Bar & Filmworks, 247 S. Meridian St.
But the 86-minute documentary, directed by Ray Nowosielski of Indianapolis, also asks what warnings top government officials received before the terrorist attacks, and why so many questions remain unanswered.
The limited-run movie, opening in 27 cities, premieres tonight in Manhattan. It will show in Indianapolis Friday through Monday. Nowosielski and others will be here Friday to answer questions.
Nowosielski, 25, and co- producer John Duffy got the idea for the movie in 2003, during their last semester of film school at Columbia College Chicago. It was there they learned of Paul Thompson's "The Complete 9/11 Timeline," and went online to read the researcher's compilation detailing the events surrounding that fateful day.
"We ended up reading until the sun came up," said Nowosielski, who recently opened a Massachusetts Avenue office.
Nowosielski and Duffy, who also is the photographer, hadn't planned on making a documentary, but the material was so compelling that they approached Thompson about turning his book, "The Terror Timeline" (HarperCollins, $19.95), into a movie.
"It developed pretty quickly," Nowosielski said.
They wanted to cover three basic areas:
How many warnings came in before Sept. 11 and what the White House knew; what went on in Afghanistan and how Osama bin Laden and others escaped; and the foreign sponsorship of the attack.
Nowosielski said he double-checked whatever they used. "We did everything we could" to ensure accuracy.
The documentary prominently features Thompson; Bob McIlvaine, whose son died in the World Trade Center attack; and several 9/11 widows who became known as "the Jersey Girls" -- the women whom conservative writer Ann Coulter has accused of enjoying their celebrity.
In defense of the Jersey Girls, who put pressure on Washington to convene a commission, Nowosielski said, "They never sought out the spotlight...it was only to further their cause of getting the (9/11) commission." Nowosielski said they've been "recharging their batteries" in anticipation of a new investigation.
McIlvaine, after screening a rough version of the film, sent Nowosielski an e-mail signed "Forever grateful," thanking the filmmakers and saying, "Every high school, college and university should have a copy of this documentary."
It was film co-producer/co-writer Kyle F. Hence who put the filmmakers in touch with the Jersey Girls. "As soon as we had that interview, we knew that had to be the center of the movie," Nowosielski said.
Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who held Indiana's 9th Congressional District seat for more than 30 years, and who served as vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, is seen briefly in the documentary, but wasn't interviewed.
"We thought about interviewing the 9/11 commissioners, but since we were going to tell the story from the perspective of the families...and honestly, there was a limit in budget," Nowosielski said.
The Cardinal Ritter High School graduate, a second-place finisher in the Prelude Awards' video competition in high school, received some of his training and experience through the Indiana Black Expo's Youth Video Institute.
In college, he and four friends started a corporate media video production company and plowed their earnings into equipment and an office at the Stutz Building.
That business folded, said Nowosielski, because "In the end, we never quite mastered the sales side."
Nowosielski admits to being a little desensitized after having watched the destruction at the World Trade Center "thousands" of times during editing.
"Every once in a while, you'll catch that one little moment, with people staring up, their mouths agape, at the towers, and it will get to you."