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Spare ‘Change’? Film panhandles for 9/11 outrage

"Loose Change"
Louder than Words
A New York truth-seeker draws attention in “Loose Change: Final Cut.”


Looking for a turkey-day screening alternative to football? How about the most widely debated and downloaded of 9/11 conspiracy documentaries, now available in a special two-hour edition? Holiday fun for the whole family, right?

“Loose Change: Final Cut,” for sale on DVD and via streaming video from the film’s website, premiered last Sunday to a near-sellout crowd at the Riverview Theater, where 27-year-old co-producer Jason Bermas modestly suggested to the crowd that Thanksgiving Day viewings of his guerrilla media counterattack could help keep the home fires burning.

Why not? Sniffing around everything from a hijacker’s porno-movie rental on Sept. 10, 2001, to the U.S. war games allegedly in progress when the first plane hit, “Loose Change”—”writen” [sic], as per the opening credits, by 24-year-old Dylan Avery, who also directed — makes skepticism at least as tasty as anything else being dished out this season.

Previous cuts downloaded 50 million times
A bona fide new-media phenomenon in its two previous editions, which have apparently been downloaded some 50 million times, “Loose Change” works by panhandling for our outrage. The viewer can direct his frustration at the filmmakers themselves for suggesting, not always persuasively, that 9/11 was an “inside job” complete with controlled demolition of the Twin Towers, or at the government and mainstream media for taking the “9/11 Commission Report” as the definitive word on the subject.

Naturally, both varieties of irritation were on display at the Riverview. Outside the theater, one middle-aged gent held a placard reading, “Dylan Avery is a Bad Filmmaker” (harsh!), while other dissenters distributed pamphlets characteristic of the sizable anti-“Change” contingent (e.g., “Do not let ‘Final Cut’ be the final word”). Inside, the paying audience, much of which was outfitted in truth-movement T-shirts, gave the movie a standing ovation. Several scenes were met with loud applause — particularly footage of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney unconvincingly addressing cable news reporters’ questions with stammered speech and darting eyes.

Toe-tapping music, too
Combining speculative reenactments, talking-head testimony and copious archival footage to refute the official version of an historical tragedy, “Loose Change” operates vaguely in the tradition of Emile de Antonio’s classic Warren Commission rebuttal “Rush to Judgment.” But of course that 1967 doc doesn’t feature anything like the Casio keyboard-style “Change” score, much of which, with its electronic synth-blasts and handclaps, is downright funky.

It’s plenty odd indeed to catch yourself tapping your toes to a movie that insinuates thousands of Americans were murdered by members of their own government. Yet perverse gratification seems among the intended responses to “Loose Change,” a movie that allows disbelievers of all sorts to fumble and fume their way toward catharsis. Personally, I’m neither qualified nor inclined to evaluate the film’s veracity relative to other 9/11 stories, official and otherwise. Yet this purportedly final cut does strike me as being impressively assembled on a minuscule budget, as well as both enjoyable and disturbing.

Suspicions rewarded
Like a lot of recent docs, including more conventionally accomplished ones such as “No End in Sight,” “Loose Change” rewards one’s suspicions of the current administration in general and its handling of the terror war in particular. So, too, the movie at once hails and condemns the mainstream media’s coverage of 9/11. Along with interviewed survivors speaking of lower-floor “explosions” in the towers just before they fell, the wealth of TV news clips from the first week after the attacks features establishment anchors spouting off the cuff about the similarity of the buildings’ swift collapses to “demolition.” Seen today, even CNN broadcasts from that chaotic period convey a startling degree of honesty — though it’s not so easy to find a newscaster on any network poking around the official story now.

At the Riverview, Bermas appeared at least as charismatic and articulate as, say, Anderson Cooper. Appearing in a bright red hoodie emblazoned with “Investigate 9/11” (his own trendsetting design), answering viewers coolly and to their satisfaction, the independent producer also took the liberty of endorsing Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, calling for a subpoena of Cheney’s 9/11 bunker-mate Norman Minetta, and, yes, asking for donations.

The movie isn’t called “Loose Change” for nothing.

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