Headline News Entertainment Report
Telling Nicholas Interview with Alicia Davis and James
Very, very compelling thank you. The documentary "Telling Nicholas"
gets to the heart of the tragedy that forever changed the lives of
so many people. Now, one seven year old boy named Nicholas lost his
mother in the World Trade Center attacks and this HBO documentary
literally brings the horror of September 11th home following Nicholas's
confusion and shock when he learns that his mother is gone forever.
Well, joining me now from New York is the Director of Telling Nicholas,
James Ronald Whitney. Ron, glad to have you join us.
Thanks for having me Alicia.
Now basically this is a movie about how a family copes in the ten
days following the World Trade Center attacks. How did you come
to make this movie?
Well I live just a few blocks from where the Twin Towers once stood
and the first plane flew right over my skylight. I'm on the top
floor of a building and I have the roof, so after that, I went upstairs
and saw the second plane fly into the second tower. Both of the
towers collapsed and I finally ran down the fire escape stairs and
then ran from that enormous debris cloud that was heading up my
street. That image that you've now seen in ad nauseum was only about
fifty feet behind me, and like everybody else I felt completely
helpless. But I had a camera and my cameraman was with me, so we
just began filming the chaos, even though at that point I had no
idea what the shape of the project was going to ultimately be. I
was just filming whatever shocked me, or confused me, or whatever
I found interesting, and that ended up shaping into a journey that
was ten days long where in the end this father was faced with the
horrendous burden of having to tell his little boy who's only seven
years old that his mommy is dead.
And now how did you get such access to the family, was that difficult
or did they really welcome you in and want to share their story.
Well for a family going through a tragedy, it's much easier in a
way for them to talk to a complete stranger about how wonderful
their daughter is. Their daughter, Michelle, is Nicholas' mother,
and they expected her to walk through that door at any moment. They
did not believe that she was dead, and for ten days, they were hanging
on to that belief. The cameras were academic to them, because they
were much more concerned about the well-being of their daughter
than they were of my camera crew. Besides, I was genuinely concerned
about what was going on. My last two films have also been about
issues regarding children so they knew that I very interested in
Nicholas' welfare and, in fact, I had come prepared with child help
hotline numbers and crisis information like different dot com addresses
that had been set up. But there was nothing to help out this poor
father-he had no idea whatsoever how to face the burden of telling
his little boy about his mother. There's no handbook about this,
so everybody was just winging it. It wasn't until day ten that he
finally had the courage to tell his little boy what was going on,
because he needed some sort of resolve. It was on that day that
the entire family realized that there was no miracle around the
corner, and that Michelle was not going to walk through that door
ever again. She was dead.
Right, well everyone was hoping for a miracle at that time. Now
this film it actually follows two families, unfortunately were running
out of time but I'd like you to talk a bit about the other family.
Well Nicholas' grandmother, that's Michelle's mother, expressed
anger toward all Muslims after the attack. She blamed them en mass
for the loss of her daughter. On day 3, I found another flier that
said Shabir Ahmed and I sought out that family hoping for a response
to this expression of hatred. The Ahmed family lives in Sheepshead
Bay and through this ten-day journey the sixteen-year-old Muslim
boy ended up coming with me and my crew and befriending Nicholas.
In fact, at the end of the film Thanbir, the Muslim boy, actually
is welcomed into Nicholas' grandmothers home, and at the very end
of the film you see them walking off together after Michelle's memorial.
So there really is a joining of two different cultures and two different
worlds in this movie that is airing this Sunday, Mother's Day.
And one of the most wonderful things about this movie is that at
the very end, little Nicholas, only 7 years old, utters his final
words in this film that will hopefully, among other things, help
to memorialize his mother. He simply says, "I love you Mom."
Sounds like a perfect, perfect film for Mothers day. Ron I'm so
sorry to cut you off there but unfortunately were running out of
time but I want to thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you again Alicia.
And Telling Nicholas airs this Sunday at 10 PM EST on HBO following
'Six Feet Under.'