Museum Picks

Darryl Mori’s pick: Eyewitness: Stan Honda (DVD)

I think this film is terrific. I’ve ended up seeing it several times and I still find it totally compelling.

Thoughtful, timely and shot in an elegantly simple style, it wisely lets the work of its subject—photojournalist Stan Honda—do much of the storytelling. His pictures from Sept. 11 were so widely seen that they seem to have become part of America’s visual vocabulary for the events of that day. Even now they are still unbelievable images. In the film, Honda offers accompanying comments and memories in a soft-spoken, unpretentious manner that makes for an effective narrative. This is minimalist documentary filmmaking at its best.

What makes the film even more significant, at least for me, is his observation that puts the aftermath of Sept. 11 in context with the aftermath of Pearl Harbor in World War II. As someone who had strongly personal ties to both events, Honda was probably one of the first to realize that history was, in some ways, about to repeat itself. There have been several excellent documentaries made about Sept. 11, but this one presents a perspective that makes it a little different from the rest and adds another layer of depth to the questions that have been asked about how the events of that day affected our world.

This film has not yet been shown much outside its limited run at the National Museum, and I’m glad that it’s now finding new audiences on DVD.

Darryl Mori is a writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the Japanese American National Museum, the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, and UCLA, where he currently serves as Director of Professional Schools in Corporate, Foundation and Research Relations.

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