Production Notes
by James Ronald Whitney, filmmaker
September 2001
10 Days Of Filming
2 3 4 5 6 7 1/8
9 10 11
    Day 1
    Day 2
    Day 3
    Day 4
Days 6-9
  Day 10
21 22
23/30 24 25 26 27 28 29

DAY 5:
Shabbir's family lives in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. They are originally from Bangladesh--a country I knew fairly well -- so I was looking forward to meeting them. I've traveled to most of the third world countries, and I'm pretty comfortable in poor surroundings. My dad is a Hell's Angel who lives in the mountains with no running water and no electricity, and a number of my relatives are homeless. Years ago, I was on a bus several miles outside Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. As the bus started to move, a woman standing on a dirt road tossed her baby through my window. I caught it, and yelled for the bus driver to stop. Still holding the infant, I got out and ran after the mother of the baby until I caught up with her. The woman was willing to selflessly sacrifice her own child, assuming that a westerner could afford her baby a better life. After that experience, for the rest of my journey through Southeast Asia, I traveled with my windows closed. The people I met in Bangladesh were incredibly warm and indescribably kind, and Shabbir Ahmed's family was no exception.

Because of the road blocks and barricades, Neil was unable to get to his family, so on Day 5 he came on his last shoot, where I first met the Ahmed family. When I arrived at Shabbir's street, I first saw Abraham, an elderly Jewish concentration camp survivor with a very thick accent who was raising money to buy food for Shabbir's family and to buy American flags to adorn the street on which they both lived. Abraham showed me the concentration camp number that was tattooed onto his forearm--a permanent reminder of his days in Auschwitz. He then directed me toward Shabbir's front door, his friend who had been missing since the attack.

Shabbir's 16-year-old son, Thanbir (pronounced Dan'-bee-ahr), invited me in. He first introduced me to his 12-year-old sister, Nadia, and his 19-year-old sister, Salma, before meeting Thanbir's mother, Shabbir's widow Jeba, who spoke only Bengali. Next, I met Shabbir's brother, Abdul, the uncle to the 3 kids.

Like Michele's family, Shabbir's entire extended family lives under one roof. After some tea and cakes, we began discussing the events that had transpired since the attack only a few days prior. Unlike Michele's family, however, Thanbir and the rest of his family seemed resigned to the likelihood that Shabbir was dead. In fact, at the end of that conversation, Thanbir said, "My dad is gone. We just have to go on with life."

Well, we were all going on with life. I still had no home or office, but Thanbir and his two sisters had no father, Jeba had no husband, and Nicholas still had no mom. All Nicholas knew was that because of an accident in Manhattan, his mother was still unable to get out of the city and return home.

On our way back to Tottenville, surprisingly, I got a signal on my cell phone--I was trying to reach Dr. Gilda Carle, a very close friend of mine. After asking her to clear her calendar for the next few days, she told me that she had not left her home since the day of the attack. She felt numb. Until my signal faded away, I told her all about the two families I had met, and explained some of the dynamics. Dr. Gilda is a therapist, a published writer, and a television celebrity.

She was instrumental in working with the mother of a 4-year-old child in a movie I was just completing about kids who are being raised by porn moms. And since the entire town of Tottenville knew Dr. Gilda from her appearances on shows like Dateline, Larry King, and Sally Jessy Raphael--where, for years she was the resident shrink--there was already a level of trust. I thought that maybe Dr. Gilda could talk to Michele's family, and help Robert discuss Michele's disappearance with his 7-year-old son. Nicholas still had no idea why his mother was really missing.

   © 2001-03 James Ronald Whitney
See the Web sites for the director's other films: Just, Melvin, and Games People Play
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