Festival update: JANUARY 4, 2021
Dear Friends and Associates:
Barbara Bowen’s film “UNCHECKED” has won First Place in the Documentary category in the NEW YORK WOMEN IN FILM 2021 ONLINE SHORTS FEST! We are delighted to share the important message of this film, and to celebrate the creativity of women!
Thank you so very much!
More about this film…
In the 1990s, the late FBI counter-terrorism chief, John P. O’Neill, had blasted through a wall of resistance inside the government to uncover the global nature of the al-Qaeda network. In this film, O’Neill’s allies recount their trail to the doorstep of the September 11th plot using their traditional security methods, only to be derailed from preventing the attacks. Their devastating account holds the keys to public trust for a wiser approach to counter-terrorism. To this day, their voices remain under heard. In this film you will meet real life officials who were featured in Hulu’s “The Looming Tower” by author Lawrence Wright: a recent ten-part dramatization of John O’Neill’s FBI career.
A note of heartfelt thanks to Warren Flagg and others who restored my faith, and to those whose supportive feedback kept me going through this film’s long arc of evolution: one that its subjects deserve.
I began reading about al-Qaeda in 1998, when the world was blindsided by the then-obscure group’s attack on two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Unforeseen circumstances later led me, a private citizen, to an improbable encounter with some of our country’s finest law enforcement individuals at the center of counter-terrorism in the years leading to September 11th. Through them, I discovered a factual basis for the nagging intuitive sense that the official narrative about 9-11 was somehow incomplete.
The Bush administration’s reaction to September 11th was excruciating for many Americans, and it certainly was for me, the kind of ache we feel when someone or something we love is suffering, but we can’t stop it. The disastrous war in Iraq, the new policies of torture and surveillance, and a new level of secrecy: these were signposts of something dangerous to our democracy. We could feel, almost viscerally, the floor cracking beneath us. In 2004, we sensed that the 9-11 Commission Report, while informative, was lacking in full portrait. Also disheartening was the distorted charge of nation-wide conspiracy taking root in the soil of that omission. Years later, when I had the privilege of interviewing these counter-terrorism officials, the perception that something important was missing from public view –was confirmed. Even after all these years, a wide swath of the American public still lacks sufficient information about what these officials endured, and the example they set for our continuing confrontation with Islamic terrorism.
In an environment where indecency now threatens to dissociate truth from fact, we are reminded of our founding principle: that a well informed public is essential. In my view, we will defeat Islamic terrorism, not by force alone, but through the power of our nation’s core values and by trusting those of our leaders who adhere to them.
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Film: The Invasion of Afghanistan
2003 Mark Rossini: on Selling the Iraq War (11:53 mins)
2016 Keeping our Rights: Rebecca MacKinnon, TED Talks (11:16 mins)
2015 Ali Soufan: We Need a Counter-terrorism Strategy (1:47 mins) (
2018 Ali Soufan: Why he wrote his new book: “The Anatomy of Terror” (9:48 mins)
Interview: The Author and Stars of the drama, “The Looming Tower” (30:26 mins)