PBS is teaming with U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 and Arte France for feature-length documentary “Generation 9/11,” which marks the 20th anniversary of the twin tower attacks by following the children born to fathers who perished in the disaster.
Produced by London-based outfit Arrow Pictures, the 120-minute doc introduces the youth born in the wake of the tragedy. An estimated 108 unborn children lost their fathers in the attacks. The PBS International-distributed film follows this group of teenagers, weaving together various milestones in their lives, such as their first day of school, the first time the absence of their father was felt, and how they learned about how their father died.
John Smithson, executive producer and creative director of Arrow Pictures, said: “We have made a number of films about 9/11, but they have all focused on the day itself. What’s exciting about this project is having the opportunity to examine life in the wake of 9/11, through the eyes of the children who have all been uniquely shaped by the tragedy.”
Smithson added: “Our research team spent months identifying all the individual stories. From there, we will focus down on a small cross-section of children whose fathers died on that fateful day, people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds across America and the world beyond, to unveil the hidden cost of the tragedy.”
Smithson’s previous films about the World Trade Center attacks include “9/11: Phone Calls From The Towers” for Channel 4 and the BAFTA-nominated “9/11: The Falling Man” for Channel 4 and Discovery Channel.
“Generation 9/11” is directed by Liz Mermin. An award-winning filmmaker who has directed high-profile documentaries for Netflix, BBC, CNN, PBS and Sundance Channel, among others, Mermin’s films include “First Ladies,” detailed portraits of Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan for CNN; and “The Beauty Academy of Kabul” for BBC Storyville. Lucie Ridout is the film’s executive producer.
The film was commissioned by Bill Gardner, VP of programming and development at PBS; Mark Edwards, commissioning editor of international co-pros at ARTE France; and Sacha Mirzoeff, factual commissioner at Channel 4.
Bill Gardner, VP of programming and development for PBS, said: “From our earliest conversations at concept stage, we all knew this was a special project. The world, not just America, was forever changed as a result of 9/11 and its aftermath, and we wanted to explore that ongoing, global impact in a very direct, personal way. The lives of these young people and their families have been shaped by 9/11 in a variety of intimate ways, and their openness to sharing their lives allows us to thoughtfully explore the nuances of the 20 eventful years since that unforgettable day.”
Mark Edwards, commissioning editor of international co-productions for ARTE France, added: “For us, this project has been all about giving a voice to this new generation coming of age and turning 20 this year. This particular group, of course, was very directly impacted by the legacy of 9/11, but their outlook also joins up with that of millions of other young people who are looking to find their place in the world and engage with the very real challenges we all are facing. Just as 9/11 was an event with global consequences, so too is the pandemic. The circumstances in which the film has been made have added an extra intensity and layer of introspection to their stories.”
Sacha Mirzoeff, Factual Commissioner, Channel 4, says: “Most 9/11 stories are set around that fateful day two decades ago and the immediate aftermath. Generation 9/11 is the first documentary I’m aware of to look forwards and the voice of the film is provided by the sons and daughters who lost their fathers in the attack. They’ve all lived in the shadow of that terrorist event, and many others after, and have unique takes on our world that help define our future. To hear directly from young people today about their views on the multitude of issues they face in this fast-changing environment feels critical. Doing that with the intimate human documentary human touch that Liz Mermin and Arrow Pictures provides feels particularly exciting.”
“Generation 9/11” will be delivered prior to the 20th anniversary of September 11 as a two-hour film, with cuts available to broadcasters in a 2 x 60′ package.