"Man in Red Bandana" is a documentary about one of the most tragic days in recent American history - the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But it isn't a complete downer, according to the film's director, Matthew Weiss.
"Man in Red Bandana" is sad, but it's also inspirational and uplifting, an insightful and moving look at a young man who helped escort at least 10 people in the World Trade Center's South Tower to safety. Twenty-four-year-old Welles Crowther died in the attack, but his heroism touched the lives of many, and "Man in Red Bandana" tells his story.
"I'd never read a book on filmmaking, I'd never taken a class on filmmaking, but I felt like this story needed to be told," said Weiss, who began making "Man in Red Bandana" in 2011.
"Man in Red Bandana" is screening at Proctors this weekend — at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Until I spoke with Weiss, I was unfamiliar with the story of the man in the red bandana. Now that I know it, I'd have to say that Weiss is right — that this is a story that needs to be told.
At 55, Weiss is an unlikely first-time director.
A resident of Florida, he is an attorney whose firm, Weiss & Associates, handles vehicle and traffic law matters. He does have a Capital Region connection — between 1987 and 1989 he lived in Albany and Colonie while working for the New York State Court of Appeals.
Weiss met Welles' father, Jeff Crowther, through work.
"He told me the story of his son, and I thought it was one of the most amazing things I'd ever heard," Weiss recalled.
Welles' parents became aware of his heroism months after his death, when the New York Times interviewed people who had survived the attack on the South Tower.
Two of the survivors reported being saved by a man wearing a red bandana. Welles had worked in the South Tower, and had carried a red bandana since he was a child. His parents reached out to the survivors, who looked at photographs of Welles and confirmed that he was the man who rescued him. Soon, other survivors, also rescued by Welles, emerged.
"His parents were able to piece together the last hour of their son's life," Weiss said. "He carried a woman down 17 flights. He led another group of down."
"Man in Red Bandana" is a mix of of interviews, computer animations, re-enactments and archival footage. It won the grand prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Listening to Weiss, it's clear he poured his heart into his movie.
"(Welles) was a real hero, and he deserved my best effort," Weiss said.
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