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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Man in Red Bandana is a documentary about Welles Remy Crowther, an equities trader who worked in the World Trade Center and saved at least 10, and possibly up to 18, people after the 9/11 attacks. The film is free of iffy language, sexual content, commercialism, and smoking, drinking, or drugs, but the real-life news footage of the attacks is heart-stopping and upsetting (as is Crowther's fate), and there are photos of injured, bloody survivors. While it's not polished and doesn't show or admit to any of Crowther's faults, when you meet the people who wouldn't be here today if not for him, it's impossible not to be moved. This is truly a great story, and that overcomes the imperfect presentation.
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What's the story?
MAN IN RED BANDANA is a documentary about the life of Welles Remy Crowther. His parents, friends, and family members talk about his childhood in Nyack, New York, especially his favorite fire engine toy and his eventual love of sports (hockey and lacrosse). As a kid, his father gave him a red handkerchief that he always carried. After graduating college, Crowther landed a job as an equities trader in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. During the 9/11 attacks, he discovered an undamaged staircase, and, wearing his red bandana over his face, kept running back up the stairs to show more and more people the way down. He himself eventually disappeared in the rubble (his body wasn't discovered until months later), but it's estimated that he saved at least 10, and possibly up to 18, people. His legacy is now remembered and celebrated, and he's even been made an honorary New York City firefighter.
Is it any good?
Though Matthew J. Weiss' documentary looks and sounds pretty low-budget, is simplistic in structure, and struggles to fill out its 76 minutes, it's blessed with an amazingly powerful, moving story. The tale is told via clips of news footage interspersed with interviews, all accompanied by Gwyneth Paltrow's narration.
You may notice that the sound is uneven (sudden increases in volume are startling) and that the composition of the interviews is largely artless. In truth, Man in Red Bandana isn't a particularly polished movie. Plus, it presents Welles almost as a saint; no one says anything but good things about him. As a person who actually lived, he's still a mystery -- but as a hero, he's most inspiring. Diagrams of his progress within the tower help to underline his feats, and seeing footage of the people he saved, and of his mother and President Obama, makes you realize the impact he actually had. By the movie's end, there will be both tears and applause. (Watch the credits to hear a new song by Lyle Lovett.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Man in Red Bandana's violent moments. How much is shown? Does it seem necessary? Is it glorified? How does it compare to what you might see in a fictionalized movie?
Is Crowther a role model? Does the movie show his flaws and his humanity, as well as his courage? Is that necessary?
What happened on 9/11, and how did it change the United States as a country?
How does this documentary compare to other films you may have seen about 9/11? Did it add any information? Did it contradict any information?
- In theaters: September 8, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: September 8, 2017
- Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow
- Director: Matthew J. Weiss
- Studio: Verdi Productions
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: History
- Character Strengths: Courage
- Run time: 76 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material involving disaster-related images and descriptions
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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