Saint of 9/11

"Very Good"

Saint of 9/11 Review


Of all the images of September 11, 2001 that are seared into our memories, none is more moving than the photograph of Fire Department Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, dead in a chair, being carried out of the rubble by a group of first responders. Although the Franciscan priest was well known in New York, it was only after the publication of that photo that the rest of the world started to learn about his remarkable life.

Saint of 9/11, narrated with solemnity by Ian McKellen, tells Judge's complex story with both reverence and reserve. As a recovered alcoholic and a fairly open gay man, Judge was an unlikely addition to the Fire Department ranks, but he served them with the same enthusiasm that he served all New Yorkers, as an astonishing range of talking heads -- everyone from Hillary Clinton to a nearly incoherent homeless man in Penn Station -- testifies.

A Brooklyn native, Judge rose through the priestly ranks and ended up in a leafy suburb, but in the 1980s he felt the call to return to the city, where he believed his work was most needed. Gravitating toward the downtrodden and forgotten, he helped the homeless and AIDS victims (at a time when the word was rarely mentioned, and certainly not among the Catholic clergy). Many recall the times they saw him wandering the halls of AIDS wards consoling and embracing the patients.

As a gay man, Judge was in direct conflict with the teachings and rules of his own church, and yet he found a way to finesse the problem, never outing himself even though he was out. Although Fire Department officials knew of his sexuality, it seems the rank and file didn't, and the movie doesn't ask the question of how they would have reacted had they known. Also not discussed is whether he had a romantic life and whether his drinking may have been caused at least in part by shame and self-hatred. In any case, friends recall his work for gay Catholic organizations and his struggles to decide whether or not to march in St. Patrick's Day parades that excluded gays.

He did love parades. A showman to his core, Judge was at his best on big occasions, preferably arriving in his Fire Department car in a freshly pressed dress uniform. One of his finest moments caught on film (unfortunately, the filmmakers have few to work with) is a speech of consolation he delivers on a Long Island beach after the crash of TWA Flight 800 in the summer of 1996. He's a wonderful orator, witty when he wants to be, profound when he needs to be.

Other clips show Judge on a peace mission to Northern Ireland, and there's even one gut-wrenching bit of film that captures him at the World Trade Center just minutes before his death with a look of terrible anxiety on his face. This moment, remembered eloquently by former New York Fire Commissioner Max Von Essen, is the movie's most haunting.

Dead at 68, Judge lived a life well worth remembering. Although Saint of 9/11 doesn't tackle all the tough questions, it puts a very human face on the tragedy of September 11 and is one more painful reminder of what New York lost that day.



Saint of 9/11

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 27th April 2006

Budget: 400

Distributed by: IFC

Production compaines: Red Envelope Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 16 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Glenn Holsten

Producer: Malcolm Lazin, Brendan Fay, Equality Forum

Starring: as Narrator, Larry Boes as Himself, Everald Brathwaite as Himself, Thomas Paul Carey as Himself, Brian Carroll as Himself, as Himself, Hillary Rodham Clinton as Herself, Brendan Fay as Himself, Brendan Fay as Himself

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