© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

  Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated documentaries
to premiere at this year's Festival,
SAINT OF 9/11 examines the
extraordinary life of Father Mychal Judge, the Franciscan priest
who was the fire department chaplain and the first documented
casualty of September 11, 2001. Undoubtedly the famous image
of fireman carrying his lifeless body is known to anyone who looked
at newspaper, magazine or television coverage of the events of that
tragic day. This film attempts to celebrate the man's life -- warts and

  It was those "warts" that led to some controversy. Father
Mychal Judge was an alcoholic who reached out to those struggling
with that disease. He was also a celibate gay man who was among
the first Catholic priests who tended to patients with AIDS in the 1980s.
In addition, he would celebrate Mass for members of Dignity, a
group of Catholic gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered
people. Additionally, he was an activist who traveled to Northern
Ireland with former NYC police officer Steven McDonald who was
left paralyzed after being shot.

  Father Mychal clearly was more than your garden variety
parish priest. He was a character, a personality who counted
among his friends celebrities (author and actor Malachy McCourt),
the elite in city politics (former Fire Commissioner Thomas
Van Essen, former mayor Rudolph Giuliani) as well as the ordinary
and everyday folks he would encounter on his walks around the

  The documentary, directed by Glenn Holsten and narrated by
Sir Ian McKellen, captures the  various facets of this man and
presents them to the audience. In addition to testimonials from friends,
Holsten secured an extraordinary videotape of a religious service
conducted by the priest on September 10, 2001 in which he speaks
of not knowing what may be in store and answering what he referred
to as God's call in the line of duty. That he died doing his job -- at the
time he was struck by falling debris he was administering the last
rites to a fallen firefighter -- is only one of life's ironies.

                          Rating:        B+