The Real Deal New York

Actor Tom Hanks narrates WTC reconstruction documentary

By Miranda Neubauer | September 01, 2011 02:10PM

From left: Tom Hanks, the 9/11 memorial, Chris Ward, executive director at Port Authority, David Samson, Port Authority chairman and Alan Reiss, deputy director of WTC construction

Opening with shots of the Eiffel Tower and other monuments around the world, a short documentary created for a Washington D.C. Sept. 11 memorial event with President Barack Obama next week aims to tell the story of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center beyond the controversy, delays and disputes. The Real Deal attended a private preview screening of the film at 57 Screening Room on 140 West 57th Street.

“The tallest object always takes on symbolism that is greater than the structure,” actor Tom Hanks states in the opening moments of the roughly 10-minute film, which he narrates. In brief interviews, Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; David Samson, Port Authority chairman; and Alan Reiss, deputy director of the WTC construction at the Port Authority, and other Port Authority employees talk about what the towers meant to them personally, how it “represented who we are,” and how it was a “home away from home,” since it was the headquarters of the Port Authority.

The film then goes on to show how the reconstruction of the World Trade Center, which is being developed by Larry Silverstein, needed to reconcile different interests of the site as a memorial, a work space, a retail space, that was not only well-designed aesthetically — functional and open — but also incorporated unprecedented safety measures.

The film is one of six short documentaries about stories of resilience after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that will be shown at the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Summit: Remembrance, Renewal, Resilience organized by the Center for National Policy and the Voices of September 11th at the Newseum’s Annenberg theater . After the event, the films, all about 10 minutes long, will be available online. Some of the other films are about the boat evacuation of Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina and the stories of members of the military wounded in service following the attacks.

One larger goal of the WTC memorial section is to convey the significance of the attacks to a younger generation that has no memory of them, the film notes, with the vision of “yellow school buses” lining up to see the memorial pools on the footprints of the Two Towers as well as the underground museum.

The film also spotlights the new World Trade Center as a transit hub — a Grand Central Terminal of Lower Manhattan, as the nexus of 15 subway lines.

But another core theme of the film is resilience, and what that means in terms of safety.
“People won’t see the concrete, they will see art,” Ward said in the film.

After the film, Stephen Flynn, security expert and president of the Center for National Policy; Eddie Rosenstein, executive producer of Eyepop Productions, director and producer of the films; and John Drobny, director of security capital programs at the Port Authority, expanded on the themes of the film. (Ward did not make it to the screening.)

Compromise by everyone was necessary to reconcile the competing interests on the site, a process that is still ongoing, Drobny said. Flynn emphasized the important role that the engineers and the architects played ensuring the safety of the building. “The challenge is how to protect function in the face of risk. If it’s East Berlin nobody will want to come there,” Flynn said.

Stephen Spielberg
has also produced a series of documentary films about the World Trade Center reconstruction.

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