prestigious Wall Street firm specializing in Treasury securities, Cantor
Fitzgerald suffered more losses on September 11th than any other
organization, including the New York Police and Fire Departments. The numbers are staggering: 658 of their 960 New
York employees died that morning.
However, Cantor’s story did not end there. Filmmaker Danielle Gardner, whose brother
Doug was one of the 658, documents CEO Howard Lutnick’s efforts to support the anguished
Cantor families while desperately working to keep the firm afloat during its
darkest hours in Out of the Clear Blue
is currently screening as part of the 2012 DocuWeeks New York.
it not been the morning of his young son’s first day of school, Lutnick surely
would have been at Cantor at the time of the attack. With offices several floors above the initial
impact zone, Cantor employees never had a chance. Rushing to the scene only to witness the
Towers’ collapse, Lutnick and a handful of senior staff began scrambling to
determine who survived. With the
enormity of their loss weighing on him, a distraught Lutnick became the public
face of the tragedy. Yet, as some family
members lashed out Lutnick in frustration, the media turned on Cantor, hard.
Blue’s stories of grief
and remembrance are truly heartrending.
Surprisingly though, it is also a compelling business documentary,
providing an inside account of Cantor’s fight to survive during the precarious
days following the fateful Tuesday. Their
resourcefulness is quite extraordinary, conducting Twenty-First Century
financial transactions with scrounged office supplies. Of course, the stakes were high. Had the firm folded, Lutnick’s ability to
help Cantor families would have been severely limited. Indeed, that behind-the-scenes look Cantor’s
tenacious rebound is what sets Blue apart
and above other well meaning 9-11 documentaries.
a member of their ranks, Gardner clearly earned the trust of Cantor families,
eliciting some unusually eloquent testimony from her interview subjects. While there are many emotionally charged scenes,
the film never feels intrusive or exploitative.
(The only exception might be Lutnick’s tearful television interviews
recorded within days of the attack, which have already been replayed
innumerable times in the media.) Indeed,
Gardner deftly walks the tightrope, directly conveying the rawness of survivors’
pain, without reveling in it.
While the media does not cover itself in glory for uncritically recycling complaints
against Lutnick, the overall film is scrupulously nonpartisan. Too many misguided people would prefer to
forget or deny the horrific events of September 11th. Worse still, some might even be inclined to
dismiss Cantor as an instrument of the “1%” amid the current polarized
climate. Blue acts as a valuable corrective to such impulses, reminding
viewers the Cantor employees lost at the World Trade Center were all individuals
from diverse backgrounds, who left behind friends and loved ones. Poignantly engaging but also quite an enlightening
portrait of corporate resiliency, Out of
the Clear Blue Sky screens through Thursday (8/16) at the IFC Center in New
York, with a week’s run at the Laemmle Noho to follow (8/17-8/23) in Los
Angeles, as part of this year’s DocuWeeks.
Labels: 9-11, Cantor Fitzgerald, Documentary, DocuWeeks '12