We had the chance to speak with Emmanuel Tenenbaum, director of the beautiful film, Free Fall. This story explores the global impact that 9/11 had; as well as its effect on individuals. The film has already received 8 awards from various film festivals and has garnered high praise from viewers. Tenenbaum shared some beautiful insight into his process and into the film in this interview.
Why did you choose to tell this story in 2021?
The film is inspired by a true story that we found in the masterpiece documentary book of Joris Luyendijk, a Dutch author. In the book, he compares the financial system to a plane without any pilot. The anecdote he tells about this trader who found out before anyone else what was going on on 9/11 and profited from it while forgetting he had friends in the towers, felt very telling and still extremely relevant today because not much has changed since. This is why we felt it was still time to tell this story.
Has the reception of this film been what you expected?
We never expected to win a Qualifying Award at our international Premiere, for sure! The reception is excellent and definitely beyond what we expected. Once the film becomes successful, it’s easy to forget how much we doubted and felt sometimes in the dark during the making. We’re all very glad about the reception.
If you were able to go back and give yourself one piece of advice before starting the process of Free Fall, what would it be?
I would tell myself: “you will experience challenges, and you will sometimes think you’ll never see the end of the tunnel, but hold on, it’s all going to be worth it in the end”.
How, if at all, has this process changed your perception of 9/11?
For the film to be truthful, we studied absolutely every detail that was available. We watched how the markets reacted, what TV channels said, and how, so in a strange way we have become a little bit like historians about certain details. For example, in Europe, everyone thinks he saw the second plane hitting [the second tower] live. The truth is, 99% of the TV channels there only interrupted their regular broadcast after the second plane. So although people have not seen it live, the impact of this tragic event was so great on them that they feel they have.
What got you into the career of directing and films?
I’m trained as a biomedical engineer, and I followed courses during my studies and my employment at Philips Healthcare. At the time, films were like a hobby. For my employer, I did, with the help of a few colleagues, a couple of humorous videos about the company that both went viral. Seeing those successes materialize made me want to do more, and a year later, I was on my own, learning to be a film director. Together with screenwriter Guillaume Fournier, we made 3 shorts that made it into 200 festivals and won around many awards.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Guillaume and I are working on a concept for a feature film. Although we can’t tell too much yet, it will also be about greed and what money can make us do.
Is there anything that you hope that all audiences take away from viewing the film?
We hope that maybe people can understand the financial sector better, how its decisions affect every one of us. At a deeper level, maybe it will help them monitor the greed they might feel deep within, and be aware that it can make us forget about our humanity.
Was it difficult to direct a film about such a monumental and world-shattering event when the setting of the film was fairly removed from the event itself?
Because the story takes place in a London office, and we shot it in Europe, the distance of the set to NY felt right. Maybe it would have been much weirder to shoot it in the US. But of course, the TV was on, with the live commentary going on all the time, a loop. This gave the entire crew a deep connection to the event, and we all felt it in our bones.