“As much as it’s a film about hope, there’s a cautionary tale to it”: David Belton on Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 documentary
Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 takes viewers back to the fateful events of 11th September 2001 in the United States. But these aren’t the events as reported on news channels and in traditional documentaries. Here, they are relived through the memories of those who were there, both in the aftermath of the attack and again 20 years later in 2021.
Co-directors David Belton and Bjørn Johnson stumbled across the footage of survivors sharing their stories on a website for an artist, Ruth Sergel, who had set up a project involving a wooden box “safe space” people could step inside of and record whatever message they wanted, with full control over beginning and ending the recording. After discovering this archive, they pieced together the testimonials with corresponding footage filmed by people on the day to weave an almost moment-by-moment account of how the day’s tragedies played out.
The impact of eyewitnesses and those that survived telling their own stories on their own terms is extraordinary. While images of the twin towers are no doubt seared into the minds of anyone who was alive when it happened, this documentary offers up a whole new perspective, with details and astoundingly well-articulated personal recollections imbuing the atrocities with new meaning.
In contrast to the devastating tales of loss and trauma of decades are also the present-day recordings where participants were invited to return to a new wooden box to reflect on their lives since 9/11. It is impossible to not be moved by the resilience and strength of human spirit captured in these interviews, though there is also an element of sadness that the unity felt in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks has been lost, with the country feeling more divided than ever.
The Upcoming has the pleasure of speaking with Belton about how the documentary came about, the process of making it and what he hopes its impact will be.
Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 is released digitally on demand on 18th January 2022 and will air on Sky Documentaries at 9pm on 18th January 2022. Read our review of the film here.
Watch the trailer for Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 here: