These ‘16 Acres’ were once called ‘the most valuable real estate on the face of the earth,’ and they refer to the parcel of land in Lower Manhattan that was left vacant when the Twin Towers were demolished on that fateful day in September 2001.
Almost immediately arose the question of what should be built there – what memorial erected to the catastrophe. Through the following decade and beyond, different interests have battled to have their respective visions implemented. Idealists on the one hand; hard-nosed realtors and city businessmen on the other – it was never going to be easy to find a solution that didn’t reek of compromise.
The great merit of Richard Hankin’s film is that he has gotten everyone to speak, so one can follow the debate in all its twisting complexity. Here they all are: Larry Silverstein, the original lease-holder, determined not to lose money from lost rents; George Pataki, the governor of New York state, running for office and seeking popularity; Daniel Libeskind, the idealistic architect, whose scheme was chosen; David Childs, his forced partner (but actually nemesis) from the rival firm of Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Along with an assorted bunch of firemen, bureaucrats, press pundits and officials from the New York port authority. Everyone, it seems, had a finger in the pie.
How did it end? It’s still ongoing. The documentary takes us up to 2012. Buildings have gone up, and been talked about. But the controversy continues, inexorably.
Richard Hankin has worked on documentaries for both theatrical distribution and for HBO, PBS, NBC, ABC, and Showtime. Home Front, which Hankin directed, produced, wrote and edited, premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. Capturing the Friedmans (2003), which Hankin co-produced and edited, won numerous awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and an Emmy for Hankin’s editing. Hankin has twice served as a Creative Advisor for the Sundance Institute Documentary Editing and Storytelling Lab, and has been invited to speak at numerous film festivals and universities, including Columbia University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.