The Newcomers

Chosen for their bold entry onto the doc scene, and the promise of a repeat performance
December 1, 2002

Jules and Gedeon Naudet

On September 11, 2001, individuals throughout New York City grabbed their cameras and recorded history. Hundreds of hours of footage exist of that sun-drenched day, when the protective bubble around the U.S. burst and planes dove from the sky. But, the images filmed by brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet distinguish themselves from the rest, in part because the story behind their capture is as compelling as the footage itself.

Having spent the previous three months filming a rookie N.Y. fireman and his crew, the Naudets simply continued to shadow their subjects as they desperately tried to save lives. But, their footage isn’t merely the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jules, then 28 years old, was a novice cameraman on September 11, but his filmmaking instincts proved strong. He captured the only known footage of the first plane’s impact with the tower, having turned his camera skyward when he heard the roar from the low-flying aircraft. Later, while Gedeon stood on the streets recording the ash-coated faces of those who escaped, Jules found himself in the lobby of Tower 1. Here, he respected the victims of the terrorist attacks, turning away from personal suffering instead of exploiting it. Anyone who has seen 9/11 knows the result is more powerful than an onslaught of graphic images.

9/11 was edited with the help of a CBS News production team and there’s little doubt the two-hour film benefitted from the network talent’s input. Previous to 9/11, the Naudets had produced only one other film, the 1999 doc Hope, Gloves and Redemption, about young boxers in Spanish Harlem. Still, great raw material (of which there is more than 180 hours) made the editors’ job an easy one.

The Naudets haven’t yet announced the nature of their follow-up effort, but the evidence suggests this is a pair to be watched. KB

Sami Saif

Like many new filmmakers, Sami Saif chose a highly personal subject for one of his early film efforts. Turning the camera on himself, Saif journeyed to Yemen with his co-director and partner, Phie Ambo, in search of his father, who had deserted the family years earlier. Unlike many novice directors, Saif created an emotional work that resonated with audiences everywhere.

Family had a banner year by any standard measure of film success. It had an impressive run through major film festivals, from Toronto, Canada, to Sheffield, U.K.; it was on the receiving end of critical acclaim; and it was picked up by broadcasters in more than 10 countries, including the U.K.’s BBC and France’s ARTE.

Perhaps even more inspiring to would-be filmmakers than the fact that Family made money is that it caught the attention of respected director (and fellow Dane) Lars von Trier. Saif’s next project? Making a film that follows von Trier’s Dogumentary guidelines. Chances are, it will be the best in show. DW


The Tribeca Film Festival kicked off last May in New York, U.S., with probably the highest celeb count east of the California state line. Not bad for an upstart event held mere blocks from Ground Zero.

Despite the obvious buzz generated by having actor Robert De Niro as one of the founders, and a marketing splash most events take decades to build (the opening ceremony was carried live on cable TV), the festival gave pride-of-place to new filmmakers: all competition films were first-time projects. Doc screenings included Black Chics Talking, by Leah Purcell; Nine Good Teeth, by Alex Halpern; and Spellbound, by Jeff Blitz.

‘Last year’s maiden edition of the Tribeca Film Festival grew out of the inspired notion that a neighborhood-spirited event…could play a positive role in revitalizing a shattered community,’ says Peter Scarlet, the former head of the San Francisco International Film Festival, picked in the fall as executive director of the festival. ‘It was unexpectedly successful.’
The challenge in 2003 will be to prove that it wasn’t just beginners’ luck. MS

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.