On Native Soil
Almost as frightening as the tragic events it details, On Native Soil is essential viewing for anyone seeking to understand how systemic failures in U.S. national security led to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. By focusing on 9/11 survivors, the surviving family members of 9/11 victims, and their passionate demand for an official investigation into the World Trade Center attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden, this riveting documentary serves as a remarkable audio-visual companion to the 9/11 Commission's official report (which is included in its entirety on this DVD). Featuring alternating narration by Kevin Costner and Hilary Swank, the film contains much of the same material included in other 9/11 documentaries, but it's informed by an inspiring sense of moral outrage as we learn, step by step, how much the U.S. government and the Bush administration knew about possible terrorist attacks prior to 9/11, and failed to take any significant action against those threats. Beginning with former CNN reporter Peter Arnett's revealing interview with bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1997, and ending with the sobering observation that we're still inadequately prepared for another 9/11-like attack, On Native Soil unfolds with a deeply personal perspective that's dramatically contrasted by the galling audacity of administrative spin control.
As recalled by surviving family members of 9/11 victims, ample evidence existed to prove that the government was aware of terrorist plots on native soil. In light of their research, then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice looks particularly culpable: As one grieving widower observes, Rice either lied in her post 9/11 press conferences (when she claimed "nobody could have known of these attacks") or--worse yet--she was unaware of the voluminous evidence of active terrorist plots available in the public record. It goes on from there: interagency communication breakdowns, disorganized response strategies when the attacks occurred, incredibly lax security at airports, and damning evidence of governmental neglect--all leading to the inescapable conclusion that 9/11 might have been avoided had the Bush administration been more attentive to obvious and immediate threats to national security. In driving these points home, director Linda Ellman doesn't flinch from the harshest realities: This is one of the few 9/11 documentaries to show attack victims leaping to their deaths from the burning twin towers of the WTC, and emotional testimony from survivors adds yet another layer of tragedy to these earth-shaking events. As a tribute to the families who confronted a shockingly reluctant administration and demanded the 9/11 Commission Report, On Native Soil serves a noble and timeless purpose: It honors those who died on 9/11, provides a cautionary warning against complacency among government officials and U.S. citizens alike, and reminds us that terrorism on native soil is a constant threat that must not be ignored.