In the February issue of Vanity Fair, contributing editor James Wolcott shares his overwhelmingly positive response to Professor of Theater and Dance Roger Copeland's latest film, The Unrecovered. The film, which was inspired by the similarities Copeland saw between Pieter Bruegel's painting The Tower of Babel and the ruins of the World Trade Center, tells the story of three fictional people—a composer, a teenage girl, and a Christian fundamentalist conspiracy theorist—as they struggle to come to grips with the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I knew Wolcott planned to write about my film in this article, but I had no idea it would be mentioned in such length, or with such enthusiasm," Copeland says. "I'm very gratified that he chose to write about the film. Wolcott—who was runner up for the National Magazine Award in the non-fiction essay category last year—has long been one of my idols, one of my favorite living American essayists. It was a special thrill to find my film praised by someone I respect so deeply."
The Unrecovered is a feature-length, fictional narrative about the psychological aftermath of 9/11. The film's title refers not only to the unrecovered bodies at Ground Zero, but also to the state of the nation at large. In addition to examining the effect of terror on the human mind, Copeland's film explores the ways in which irony, empathy, and fear interacted with one other in the wake of 9/11.
In his essay for Vanity Fair, Wolcott calls The Unrecovered a film that can "spook us to a higher recognition of what true shock and awe look like." He also refers to it as a "highbrow scavenger hunt," and "a safari into the collective unconscious [that] seeks to decipher the signs and symbols of the falling towers and find links in the broken chains of evidence." But perhaps Wolcott's biggest compliment to Copeland comes when he writes: "For a word guy, Copeland knows how to tease the maximum meaning out of images and juxtapose them to achieve magic realism. He turns the instructional video of a flight attendant demonstrating safety procedures into a ribbon of grief, and gets tone poems out of a backyard swing, construction cranes, and the totemic authority of a hotel-room T.V."
As a result of Wolcott's article, Copeland has received several e-mails from people interested in screening The Unrecovered at both national and international film festivals. "My head's still swimming from all the attention," he laughs.
But, says Copeland, the most exciting thing about having Vanity Fair mention his film is that it's "the only publication I know of where tabloid celebrity rubs shoulders with intellectual seriousness!"