Arrow Pictures has won a three-way commission from PBS, ARTE France and Channel 4 to make Generation 9/11, a feature-length documentary which takes a unique look at the impact of the 9/11 tragedy on its 20th anniversary.

An estimated one hundred and eight children were in their mother’s womb when they lost their fathers in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Generation 9/11 (1 x 120 mins) is an intimate film telling the stories of their children, born in the wake of their deaths. The film is distributed by PBS International.

John Smithson, Executive Producer and Creative Director, Arrow Pictures, says: “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.”

Following the lives of this unique group of teenagers, Generation 9/11 will document what’s happened to them and their families in the 20 years following al-Qaeda’s assault.  Whilst the film weaves together shared chapters of the lives of these children – their first day of school; the first time the absence of their father was felt; the moment they learned how their father died – it also serves as a lens to look at the broader world.

“Having the backing of three significant and equal partners through both the development and commissioning process has fuelled our creative ambition for this film,” adds 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.”

Generation 9/11 will follow its protagonists on their personal journey over the last 20 years using a combination of new footage, family photos and home archives.  It follows in the footsteps of a range of 9/11 films for which John Smithson has been responsible, including the Emmy-nominated 9/11: Phone Calls From The Towers (1 x 90 for Channel 4) and the BAFTA-nominated 9/11: The Falling Man (1x 90 for Channel 4/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, Sundance Channel, many more, 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.

Bill Gardner, VP of Programming and Development, PBS, says: “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, ARTE France, comments: “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.”

Tom Koch, VP of PBS International, adds: “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.”

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-minute package.  It 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.  An Arrow Pictures production, Generation 9/11 is Exec Produced by Lucie Ridout.  The Creative Director is John Smithson.

 

Jon Creamer