Stephen Prince


On his book Firestorm: American Film in the Age of Terrorism

Cover Interview of September 08, 2009

The wide angle

I cover the range of filmmaking elicited by 9/11 by placing it in several frameworks.  One of the most important is provided by the historical context of the events.  The attacks have been extensively investigated, and a great deal of empirical knowledge now exits about them.  I measure the films against this information and assess their creative departures from the records and their poetic uses of image, character and setting.

Symbolic, poetic, mythological or ideological meanings typically arise within the gaps or interstices between what is factually known and what the films may creatively propose about the events in question.  I aim to be sensitive to the poetic and artistic uses of film but also to hold the films in question to the known record of events.  To do this, I spend time talking about many non-film subjects as background to the filmmaking – the 9/11 investigation, the history of al Qaeda, construction methods used in the World Trade Center, and the aftermath of the attacks as manifest in the Iraq War and controversies over forcible renditions and harsh interrogation methods.

I’ve written the book to be accessible, avoiding jargon.  The ideal readers include scholars but also a more general audience interested in the topic.  The book shows how films have interpreted the attacks and how the films themselves may be interpreted, and it also provides the context of events on which the films draw.