Aspiring film producer Daniel Lindsay was making photocopies of his resume at Kinko’s in 2001 when producer Cody Shearer asked for a copy. The day after Sept. 11, Shearer reread the resume and offered Lindsay the opportunity to direct a film.
This film, “Why U.S.?” played Thursday afternoon to an audience of about 20 people in the Luce Hall auditorium. The documentary explores the many reasons America has become a target for terrorists. Lindsay, who directed the film, and Shearer answered questions after the screening and further explained the goals of their project. The 75-minute film is a collection of interviews with academics, journalists, Americans and Muslims, gauging their perceptions of American foreign policy and the nation’s awareness — or lack thereof — of world issues.
Lindsay said his goals as a director were to uncover the failure of the media to educate the country and to spur Americans to begin educating themselves more about international and political issues. At 24, Lindsay said he especially wanted his first film to speak to his generation.
“Misinformed members of our generation see this and realize they need to take an active interest in what goes on in the rest of the world,” Lindsay said.
The day after Sept. 11, 2001, Lindsay and Shearer set out on a cross-country road trip from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to capture Americans’ reactions. But the tables were turned on them, Shearer said, when people began asking them, “why us?” The two men then decided to make it the film’s mission to explore this question, rather than simply providing a synopsis of the events of Sept. 11.
“The focus of this isn’t 9/11,” Lindsay said. “9/11 is a catalyst for discussion.”
With Sept. 11 as a starting point, Lindsay and Shearer shot more than 140 hours of film and edited their footage into a documentary that highlights the American media’s lack of international coverage, the Americanization of Middle Eastern Muslim countries, and U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lindsay said he realized there was no possible way to find one answer to the posed question in a 75-minute film. But in making the documentary, Lindsay said he gained a new understanding of the media’s power in perpetuating anti-American sentiments.
“I think one thing I learned is the impact media has on a population and how powerful the media is in creating impressions,” Lindsay said.
Shearer, a former Washington, D.C.-based journalist, interviewed subjects while Lindsay taped them. Subjects included parents of a victim of the World Trade Center attack; Seymour M. Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; Abu Aziz, a radical Islamic fundamentalist; and Yanay Geva, a 25-year-old Israeli.
While many Americans in the film expressed their inability to understand the motives of terrorists, the Islamic fundamentalist seemed to hate America for supporting oil-producing, oppressive governments and called upon America to pull its troops from Muslim soil. Political experts and professors differed in their views but most agreed that Americans needed to be more aware of the world and should start listening to the voices from the Middle East.
Teri Sciacchetano GRD ’04 said she found the documentary particularly interesting because it touched upon America’s future.
“Not only did the movie portray the dearth of foreign news coverage in the United States, but it also gave some recommendations on how individual Americans can push for greater foreign coverage,” she said.
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