Arrow Pictures has received a three-way commission from PBS, ARTE France and Channel 4 to make Generation 9/11, a feature-length documentary about the impact of the 9/11 tragedy on its 20th anniversary.
John Smithson, executive producer and creative director at 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.”
“Having the backing of three significant and equal partners through both the development and commissioning process has fuelled our creative ambition for this film,” added Smithson. “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.”
An estimated 108 children were in their mother’s womb when they lost their fathers in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Generation 9/11 is an intimate film telling the stories of their children, born in the wake of their deaths. The film is distributed by PBS International.
Following the lives of this group of teenagers, Generation 9/11 will document what’s happened to them and their families in the 20 years following the tragedy, weaving together shared chapters of these children’s lives—from their first day of school to the first time the absence of their father was felt and the moment they learned how their father died—and serving as a lens to look at the broader world.
Generation 9/11 is directed by Liz Mermin, an award-winning filmmaker who has directed documentaries for Netflix, the BBC, CNN, PBS and Sundance Channel, among others. Her films include First Ladies for CNN and The Beauty Academy of Kabul for BBC Storyville. Lucie Ridout is the film’s executive producer.
Bill Gardner, VP of programming and development at 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-pros for ARTE France, commented: “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 for Channel 4, said: “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 forward 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.”
Tom Koch, VP of PBS International, added: “It is very unique for three broadcasters to sit down and agree on a story at the start. We all felt that following the lives of these children growing up in a post-9/11 world would give an incredibly important perspective on the last 20 years. We look forward to sharing their stories in Generation 9/11 with the global audience.”