The Road Home from 9/11

In August 2001, the Detroit Film Theatre showed the Chinese film The Road Home, about a businessman who returns to the village of his childhood for his father’s funeral and makes some heartfelt discoveries about his parents.

This emotionally powerful movie was directed by Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) and starred Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). I enjoyed this poignant film so much that I decided to see it again if it showed up at another movie theater.

My next chance to see it came about a month later at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor—on September 11, 2001. As I arrived at work that day, the thought of seeing this lovely film helped take the edge off of another eight hours of cubicle life. Sadly, that movie ended up being a more escapist experience than I could have ever imagined.

When I got to Ann Arbor, I noticed that the Borders bookstore across the street from the Michigan was closed. For the safety of its employees, said a note in a window.

But the Michigan was open, and as I sat in the darkness of the Screening Room, I wondered what thoughts about this terrible day were running through the minds of the other moviegoers. If the management of the Michigan decided to keep the theater open that evening to give people some relief from the awful images on TV—well, I’m glad they did, because that’s how it helped me.

Since 9/11, the events of that day and afterwards have provided much material for movies that have appeared at the DFT and the Michigan.

The 2003 film 11’09″01 (September 11) included nine short movies about September 11, 2001 by directors from Egypt, Mexico, Bosnia, the United States and other countries. Another 2003 film, Marooned in Iraq, featured Kurds who survived Saddam Hussein’s attacks. This movie gave us a closer look at the people of this region in a story about two sons and their father who travel from Iran to Iraq to find the father a wife.

Who can forget the energetic young Iraqi (and the quiet pregnant girl) in the 2004 film Turtles Can Fly? The young man raced around a refugee camp, trying to help people prepare for the impending 2003 conflict between America and Iraq. And In The Beauty Academy of Kabul (2004), three Afghan women returned from more than 20 years in exile to give a touch of grace to Kabul by opening a beauty school.

September 11, 2001 also left an impact on the Redford. On October 13, 2001, theater organist (and retired Air Force colonel) Jack Moelmann gave a concert that included a sing-along and a “Tribute to America.” Moelmann punctuated his performance with several strong comments about the strength of America in the face of the 9/11 attacks.

In that somber autumn, as the flags waved and the patriotism surged, I couldn’t help but think that the patrons and staff of the Redford didn’t need to change their behavior much. For years, the organists had led the audience in a singing of the “Star Spangled Banner”, with a large flag displayed on stage. And every November, the Redford Community War Memorial Association, Inc. sponsors a Salute to Our Veterans, with a color guard and patriotic readings.

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Copyright © 2006 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.


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