PARIS — Being in the wrong place at the right time has led documentary filmmaker Jules Naudet to record what may be to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack what the Zapruder film was to the Kennedy assassination.
Jules and his brother Gedeon, both Paris-born, have been following a rookie New York fireman for the past two months. Jules was in the north tower of the World Trade Center with his subject at 8 a.m., while Gedeon was in the south tower, also armed with a camera. When a possible gas leak in the street below was signaled, Jules followed a fire squad captain to an otherwise ordinary spot on the pavement.
Intrigued by the sound of the incoming Boeing 767, Jules had just enough time to reframe his shot before the horrific impact.
After Jules confirmed that Gedeon was OK, the two brothers — who already had authorization to follow firemen on the job — lensed for a total of five hours.
According to a report in French daily Le Figaro over the weekend, Jules Naudet is “the only person to have filmed the first impact” and “as the situation took on catastrophic proportions, some 260 firemen perished in front of Jules and Gedeon’s cameras.”
Having been alerted by the ladder company, two FBI agents were waiting at the brothers’ home Tuesday night. The FBI confiscated the five hours of priceless video footage, permitting Jules to make a dupe of the moment of impact. That crucial scene was confided to the Gamma photo agency, which distributed it to TV stations and print media worldwide for dissemination on the day after the disaster.
The Naudet brothers, sons of Hachette Filipacchi Medias correspondent Jean-Jacques Naudet, have lived in New York since 1989. Their feature docu “Gloves and Redemption: The Story of Mickey and Negra Rosario,” about husband and wife boxing trainers, was shown at the 2000 Northampton Film Festival.