May 2, 2005
Glittering Events, Bitter Reminders
In the shattered world following September 11th, 2001 actor
Robert DeNiro and his partner Jane Rosenthal initiated the
TriBeCa Film Festival named after the tony neighborhood just
north of Battery Park and the hole where once stood the Twin
It was a brave and powerful thing to do in the spring of
2002. Around the event the city rallied. Since then, it has
grown and become an ongoing city asset of great value and
This year, because I am privileged to be part of the OFF
TO WAR team, I attended a screening of the festival version
of the film, seeing it for the first time in the presence
of others. Seated in the back of the darkened auditorium I
found myself as profoundly affected in the eleventh seeing
as in the first.
Saturday night I was invited to the premiere of my friend
Carolyn Chambers film, THE SISTERS. It is a contemporary
re-telling of Chekhovs THE THREE SISTERS. It marries
Chekhov with Albees WHOS AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?,
in a claustrophobic, cloying drama of unspoken love, unsaid
emotions, loosed in bitter, angry, acerbic words that wound
but dont address underlying issues. It stars Rip Torn,
Erik McCormack, Mary Stuart Masterson, Maria Bello [in a bravura
performance], Tony Goldwyn [the best thing he has ever done],
and Steven Culp.
This was followed by a VIP party, floating in a festive sea
of vodka [42 Below, a sponsor], gifts and noise. My goody
bag contained three months use of a Vespa!
Sunday there was an intimate dinner at a Greek restaurant
in northern TriBeCa for the producers, including me, of OFF
TO WAR, the executives from Discovery Times and several execs
from the New York Times, including Mike Oreskes, Deputy Managing
Editor of the Times.
Also attending were three of the young men featured in the
documentary, up from Arkansas to see the film and to be honored
by those of us who have been following their lives for a year.
Wednesday I was in DC and my friend, Dawn McCall, President
of Discovery Networks International, invited me to attend
a party with her at the Embassy of Singapore. There we listened
to traditional and contemporary Singaporean music and afterwards
we indulged in a spectacular buffet.
All this glitter made me smile as I am, at heart, a mid-western
kid at loose in the big city.
Singapore is a Coalition Partner and at the Embassy party
the first six rows in the small auditorium were filled with
young men and women from Walter Reed Hospital, recovering
from their war wounds. They entered, in their wheelchairs,
on their crutches, leaning on their canes, supported by each
other. A young man, looking too young to fight, entered, one
leg only. Another wheeled himself in; he had no legs and only
part of one hand. Each and every one of them was a living
reminder that we are, like it or not, agree or not, at war
in a war that is not so clear and clean as others we have
fought but which is costing lives and limbs all the same.
I did not speak to them. I should have. I should have said:
thank you. While I dont agree with the policies that
brought them to Iraq and Afghanistan, I admire and am grateful
that they did their duty.
When the OFF TO WAR boys went off to war, when I heard the
plane had taken off and was on its way to Kuwait, I put my
head down on my keyboard and wept, saying prayers to all the
facets of God I could imagine to bring them home safely. I
was lucky, the young men I knew returned, all safe.
The Embassy Party reminded me that all did not. It was the
perfect coda to the week. The TriBeCa Film Festival was born
of 9/11 as was this war. And all the glitter and all the circumstance
should not distract from the human cost of the road we travel.