On Wednesday, January 12 at 6:00 p.m. at the NYCLA Home of Law, NYCLA's Art Committee will present Out of the Ashes: 9/11, a documentary that puts a human face on families of September 11 victims five years after the attacks. Through the stories of seven 9/11 families, the documentary provides an unprecedented glimpse of the impact that the largest entitlement program to date, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, had when it distributed $7 billion to over 5,500 families.
The families highlighted include a retired firefighter father whose son was one of 343 firefighters killed, a pilot's wife from Flight 93, an undocumented-worker family, a same-sex partner and the family of the first respiratory casualty from the toxic dust at Ground Zero.
The film was written, co-directed and produced by Marilyn Berger, professor at Seattle University School of Law and director of Films for Justice Institute, a non-profit project sponsored by Seattle University with a generous contribution from the Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services (JAMS). The documentary explores key legal and societal issues, such as, Was giving the claimants money a misguided failure or a lifeline to survival? Did the fund undermine our legal system or did it offer 9/11 families justice by avoiding lawsuits? And if the Victim Compensation Fund was the right thing to do, do those affected by other tragedies, such as Hurricane Katrina, the Oklahoma City bombing and other disasters also deserve compensation? If so, is this fund, with its methods for calculating the value of a human life, an appropriate model?
Featured interviews include Kenneth Feinberg, the 9/11 Fund special master, who is now the "claims czar" for the $20 billion BP Gulf oil spill escrow fund. Mr. Feinberg speaks candidly about the difficulty in persuading victims to give up their right to sue, the problems created by ambiguity in the law that established the fund and how the heart-wrenching stories affected him as he struggled to essentially put a price tag on a life, over and over again.
Professor Berger will participate in a question-and-answer session following the screening.
Admission to the January 12 screening is $5 and includes beer and popcorn. Proceeds will help underwrite NYCLA's pro bono programs, which assist hundreds of New Yorkers each year. For reservations, send a $5 check, made payable to NYCLA, to NYCLA - Film Festival, 14 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10007.