Twelve years on from the 9/11 attacks, film-maker Danielle Gardner revisits Ground Zero to ask how a company can continue to do business when all of its infrastructure and two-thirds of its work-force were wiped out in a single day.
Gardner’s brother, Doug, died whilst working for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the north tower, and ‘Out of the Clear Blue Sky’ is a personal look at the tragedy through the destruction and rebirth of the investment firm.
As the director explained, it is was a deeply emotional process: “I would say the film was both therapeutic and painful. I think it gave me a lot of purpose. It let me explore and learn about September 11th, which I think I really needed and which I couldn’t have done without being in the guise of a film maker. I think at the time I was completely devastated and it definitely helped me get up.”
The film centres around the chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, who was initially trashed by the media for not taking care of the victims’ families before setting aside 25% of the firm’s profits over five years for them and providing health care for 10 years.
In all, he donated over 136 million euros.
Gardner assembles a carefully edited selection of video footage and interviews to capture Lutnick’s public journey, from modest hero to vilified executive and back again.
Lutnick, who also lost a brother in the catastrophe, says returning to that fateful day with Gardner was tough in light of their shared loss. As he explained: “The most difficult thing was going back. Putting myself back into that experience. Talking about it with Danielle made it a much more passionate experience, much more emotional then it would be otherwise because I knew she was not a disconnected director. She was feeling everything I was feeling because she felt it too.”
‘Out of the Clear Blue Sky’ is available now on limited release.