An extraordinary story, “The Woman Who Wasn’t There” is an almost-hypnotic 90-minute documentary, which will air on Investigation Discovery April 17 at 8 p.m.
Turned into a book released earlier this month, this companion doc chronicles the strange tale of Tania Head (pictured), who claimed she narrowly escaped death in one of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11 and that her fiance died in the other.
Only it was all a lie — something we get to see straight from the horse’s mouth. Director Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr. had interviewed her extensively along with a lot of other 9/11 survivors, among whom she became a leader, serving as president of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network. The sense of betrayal and confusion they eventually experience is almost palpable, even if the filmmakers can’t pin down why the woman (Tania Head wasn’t her real name) would go to such lengths to fabricate her story.
Produced by Meredith Vieira’s company and 4235 Prods., “The Woman Who Wasn’t There” relies on interviews and news footage, as well as bits of animation to illustrate certain aspects — including Head’s fantastic story about her Sept. 11 ordeal, and how she supposedly escaped death.
As Guglielmo explains in statement distributed with the DVD, he had already made the 9/11 film “The Heart of Steel” and was prodded by Head to produce another focusing on her and fellow survivors. When conducting the interviews in 2006, he writes, “I had no idea whatsoever that I was shooting a documentary about false identity, deceit and betrayal.”
Or, as ID’s press release explains it:
THE WOMAN WHO WASN’T THERE began as a small advocacy film after Tania approached filmmaker Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. in 2006, wanting to tell the resiliency of the 9/11 survivors. She was eager to film the issues they face and their painstaking road to recovery. Guglielmo not only filmed hours of exclusive interview footage with Tania, but he also became her friend and confidant. When it came to light that the facts of her astounding tale were completely fabricated, Guglielmo kept the cameras rolling.
With complete access and participation from The World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, the documentary is told from a unique inside perspective that has yet to be seen by audiences, allowing viewers to unravel the psychological mystery of Tania’s tale as her closest friends did in real time.
Why Head was so brazen and so seemingly confident about perpetuating the ruse is only one of several questions the documentary leaves unanswered, albeit not for lack of trying. What’s clear, though, is like the continued echoes of Sept. 11 on the American psyche, the mystery that is “The Woman Who Wasn’t There” will stay with you long after it’s gone.