Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 is a reminder that as much as tragedy can bring a nation together, it is the individuals that mean the most. Shortly after the attacks, artist Ruth Sergel set up a video box where people could record what they felt. Filmmakers David Belton and Bjorn Johnson have brought these videos together in one place and interspersed with footage from September 11 to tell a story of trauma and perseverance.
The videos are incredibly moving. The testimonials include a person watching as people had to choose how they were going to die, a Muslim woman in America realizing how her life has changed, and everyone talks about how they were unsure of how – or if – they could move forward. It is effortlessly powerful stuff and is a testament to the amount of emotions that were felt that day.
Memory Box brings the interviewees back twenty years later to reflect back on their initial videos. This follow up shows how much people and the country have changed in the past two decades. The documentary does not have to get too much into current events for audiences to see how different attitudes are today. But it is in the people that the most change is seen. They have moved forward in their own ways and have even used 9/11 as a starting point in their lives.
The end result shows the people that made up the country during some of its darkest days. Everyone goes into the video booth wanting to discuss what happened on 9/11 but most of their stories expand beyond just themselves. Memory Box shows that even the most personal stories can be wide reaching enough to touch others. And it is in these moments that shows what America is – and what it could be.
The Toronto International Film Festival takes place virtually and in person from September 9 – September 18
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