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PBS Documentary Explores How Ordinary Objects Acquire Extraordinary Meaning - OBJECTS AND MEMORY To Air In September On PBS (check local listings)
[September 06, 2021]

PBS Documentary Explores How Ordinary Objects Acquire Extraordinary Meaning - OBJECTS AND MEMORY To Air In September On PBS (check local listings)

NEW YORK, Sept. 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- "OBJECTS AND MEMORY remains one of the most poignant memories of anything I have ever done. It is a very timely piece still and will always be a current reminder in our present terrifying culture. I wish you all the best with what will remain one of the most noble projects I have been associated with in my career. Thank you for it." – Frank Langella

Twenty years after 9/11, what have we learned? How do we respond to momentous events, again and again?  How do otherwise ordinary items come to symbolize experiences, aspirations, and identity? OBJECTS AND MEMORY, a PBS documentary, captures moving remembrances of extraordinary historical events and the innate human drive to maintain connections and continuity by preserving the past and speaking to the future.

OBJECTS AND MEMORY is about the things in our homes and museums that mean the most to us because of their associations with people, places, and experiences. These days with the extensive losses due to Covid-19, people are reflecting on what they most value and the things that represent those they love, as they did following 9/11.

Why are objects meaningful?  What is it about a piece of paper, an ID card or a teddy bear that evokes powerful memories?  How do deeply personal possessions create community and vitalize history?

When people's lives undergo sudden upheaval and incomprehensible loss, they seek a bridge between the irreplaceable past and a hopeful future.  OBJECTS AND MEMORY uses 9/11 as the focal point of the documentary and also features visits to the memorial site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial to elaborate on the power and poignancy of objects retrieved from and left at the sites. The film captures rarely seen footage of the recovery effort and its dramatic challenges, and presents moving, evocative images of everyday objects that became treasured possessions following the life-altering disaster. Stories by family members, witnesses to the tragedies, and historians tell how objects remind us of special experiences and emotional connections. 

The filmmakers Jonathan Fein and Brian Danitz knew that many films – as good as they may be – grow dated and stale over time, so they strove to craft a work that, by illuminating ever-present, universal human responses and values, would remain relevant and meaningful. The fact that the film is sought out years after its original release is a testament to that achievement.

Shawn Halford, senior director of programming and scheduling at PBS's National Program Service for 21 years wrote, "Your program is one of the very few that continue to see broadcast play after so many years – the overwhelming majority of shows never see that much affection over time fro PBS and stations." And recently the producers got email from a Massachusetts UPS driver who wrote, "I saw the film on PBS a few years back and it captured (excuse the language) the sh*t out of me. All of it was very moving. Now that my kids are old enough we want to share it with them."

When the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation / Emigrant Bank secured a :15 second underwriting spot for the upcoming broadcast, Georgette Bennett, Ph.D., the foundation's Chief Grants Manager and the founder of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding wrote, "OBJECTS AND MEMORY is a lyrical, intimate, and beautifully-wrought film. I've never seen the 9/11 story told in this way and was deeply moved by the poignant speakers, the gorgeous videography, Frank Langella's eloquent narration, and Phillip Glass's haunting score. We're happy to support its redistribution."

Howard Milstein added, "Abby and I were deeply moved by this film. We felt it would be a fitting tribute to our dear friend, Neil Levin, to fund the film's rebroadcast in his memory. Neil was Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on 9/11 and was killed while helping others to evacuate the Twin Towers."

The other major underwriter of the film's upcoming broadcast is Chubb. In addition to supporting this documentary, Chubb has been a long-time supporter of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The insurer also donated to the museum the recovered Ground Zero flag, the iconic American flag three New York City firefighters raised above the rubble on September 11, 2001, which was seen around the world in Thomas E. Franklin's iconic photograph.

With the all-too-many traumatic events that have occurred since 9/11 – and still are occurring – OBJECTS AND MEMORY sheds light on fundamental human responses and concerns and helps us understand how we navigate through a fraught material world by imbuing otherwise ordinary things with meaning.

In presenting meaningful physical symbols - those that speak, those that reach out, and those that heal - and their stories, in the unusually dramatic setting of their retrieval, OBJECTS and MEMORY explores the things we most value. Without the objects, the stories would lack vibrancy; without the stories the objects would lack significance. Taken together, the images of the objects, the stories they evoke, and the stories of their collection lead the viewer on a journey where the commonplace is transformed into the remarkable and where the stuff of history is highly personalized.

OBJECTS and MEMORY is a production of EVER, a filmmaking partnership of Jonathan Fein and Brian Danitz and is narrated by Frank Langella, with music by Philip Glass.

Producer/Directors' Biographies / Filmographies

Brian Danitz is an award-winning director of documentaries, an accomplished director of photography and a producer of new media whose work has been published on film, television and computer screens around the world. In 1995 he produced, directed and filmed the documentary Ecological Design: Inventing the Future.  In 1993, he produced the documentary short N is for Nuclear.  He was director of photography for Bowling for Columbine (2003 Academy Award winner) and for Sound and Fury (2001 Academy Award Nominee, PBS). 

Jonathan Fein has long been interested in the interrelationships of the tangible and the intangible. As a sculptor (University of Pennsylvania MFA '78), his work has evolved from the manipulation of physical material to sculpting in time: filmmaking.  His editing and/or producing credits include the documentaries Journeys to Peace and Understanding, The Competition, Death Row Diaries, and A Change of Heart; the Emmy award-winning series 4Stories; the PBS series The Fred Friendly Seminars; the television special of the Broadway musical Nunsense 2; and the Wisdom Channel series Interviews.  This is his first feature as a director.  He gives presentations that expand upon the issues raised by OBJECTS and MEMORY and is currently developing a series about innovation to solve problems and improve lives around the world.

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