United 93: How Soon Is Now?

I will be attending tonight's debut screening of United 93 at the Tribeca Film Festival and am slated to cover it for HuffPo. If I didn't have that reason, I'm not sure I would go. The friend with whom I am seeing the film sent me an IM just now: "Warning - I might walk out." It is, of course, the question everyone is asking: is it too soon?

Who decides what is too soon, and how an event ought to be remembered? Anyone who was in New York on that day doesn't need a reminder; so too those in Washington D.C., or really anyone making up part of a horrified national - and international - audience tracking a doomed passenger jet in the skies over Pennsylvania. Is it only time for a reminder when we actually need one?

If these are questions that are up for debate then it would seem that it is not too soon; maybe that means it is time, just in terms of debate and discussion and moving forward. Who knows - I would never inflict that judgment on anyone else. Query whether it is too soon for the producers of United 93 to put it out there; as for whether you'll be ready to go, well, that one's up to you.

That is, I think, the difference here - the difference between the offer and the acceptance. It's why audiences revolted a few weeks back when suddenly the trailer unspooled before their eyes - make your movie, fine. But don't make me watch any of it (and for the record, I found the trailer - available here - really upsetting, especially watching the mundane details of airport arrivals and boarding, knowing what was to come).

New York film critic David Edelstein makes the point that "It is never too soon for an artist to grapple with a national trauma and its repercussions in the collective psyche." With that in mind, the Tribeca Film Festival has added a special panel on the subject, called "Visions of History & Truth: Artists in Action After 9/11." Moderated by WNYC's Brian Lehrer with a thoughtful panel of artists and historians, it's free and was specifically convened to provide a forum for the discussion of these questions. Says Edelstein: "Yes, depictions of 9/11 still dredge up emotions that are difficult to bear. But the process of framing and reframing the tragedy is vital to our healing."

Perhaps it can never be too soon, because there will never be a point when it won't feel like too soon. In that case, there seems no simpler answer to the question of "Why now?" than Jane Rosenthal's weary answer: "Why not now?"

For some typically thoughtful discussion about United 93, see Slate here.