Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11
The titular memory box of this tactful, artful documentary from co-directors David Belton and Bjørn Johnson isn’t a metaphor. It’s an actual giant plywood box – essentially a private recording booth where those affected by the events of September 11th can share their recollections. Originally recorded in 2002 and 2003, shortly after the events, it’s clear that participants are still reeling from what they’ve been through, while being admirably calm and articulate as they share their agonising memories.
The documentary’s staggered release schedule doesn’t diminish its impact, but its US release was timed for the 20th anniversary of the attacks, which added some poignancy. However, the piece certainly elevates itself beyond a generic commemoration of the day and those who lost their lives.
At just over the halfway mark, the film pivots and revisits those who used the memory box close to two decades ago. Recorded in 2021, these accounts are those that truly resonate: the actual echoes of 9/11. These are stories of resilience and restoration, with subjects having had almost 20 years to process events, and it’s at this stage that the documentary distinguishes itself, masterfully landing its emotional punches.
Even after watching the film, there could be some uncertainty as to what the crux of the project actually is, beyond a sharing of memories that allow history and the emotional responses to this history to converge. The approach adds multiple human elements to personalise the atrocity, and is certainly effective in this respect, but this doesn’t always translate into the apparently intended level of intuitiveness.
The film’s capacity to resonate with an audience is arguably dependent on their own emotional response to the tragedy. Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 delivers precisely what is anticipated of such a documentary. The format and its mode for recording these recollections may not add any discernible extra dimensions to the participants’ accounts, but this is a valuable and very human piece of filmmaking.
Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 is released digitally on demand on 18th January 2022.
Watch the trailer for Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 here: