Stephen Prince


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

Cover Interview of September 08, 2009


I hope that the book captures the range and complexity of the film portraits of 9/11 that were produced during the two terms that President Bush was in office.  These eight years are the interval of time that the book covers.  Because these eight years form a unit of history, and because the close of President Bush’s second term coincided with the completion of major writing on the book, it made sense to formulate an ending to the project in those terms.

But, truly, there is as yet no ending.  Films about 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other events that are legacies of the September attacks will continue to proliferate because the age of terrorism in which we find ourselves is, for now, unending.  I hope, therefore, that the book’s value will not be measured by the impossible task of covering all the latest films, but rather by its success in clarifying the fundamental ways in which filmmakers have responded to 9/11.

Firestorm shows how easily Hollywood film and television absorbed the events of this national tragedy into the existing story conventions, genres and formulas of popular culture.  Shortly after the attacks, many people predicted that storytelling, especially in moving image media, would be changed forever.  This did not occur, and Hollywood found numerous ways to make terrorism a profitable subject for entertainment, something that seemed unthinkable right after 9/11.  At the same time, documentary filmmakers compiled a very strong record of examining the attacks and the challenges they pose to American society.

© 2009 Stephen Prince