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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

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 Towers.

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 prestige.

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 Chekhov’s THE THREE SISTERS. It marries Chekhov with Albee’s WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, in a claustrophobic, cloying drama of unspoken love, unsaid emotions, loosed in bitter, angry, acerbic words that wound but don’t 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 don’t 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.