Review of Truther or: I Am Not a Conspiracy Theorist (2019)
Seen in 2021.
Passionate proponents of false theories alleging that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were perpetrated by the US government.
The documentary follows Ground Zero prosyletizers, Dylan Avery who made Loose Change (2005), and a well-funded non-profit group called the Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. All three sets of “truthers” persist in their belief that World Trade Center building 7 was purposely demolished, long after a 2008 NIST report concluded that uncontrolled fires on multiple floors gradually weakened the structure’s internal supports to the point that its eventual collapse was surprisingly smooth, with the hot interior falling slightly before the cooler facade.
I gather that most of the material for this documentary was shot in 2014–2015 for a more limited project (“Uncomfortable Truths”) that was initially about the street prosyletizers. That material is relatively weak. Dylan Avery’s irresponsible attitude is more interesting: He just thinks that a conspiracy would be cool, like the death-metal video he’s seen filming, and he’s well aware that there are many untenable conspiracy theories flowering in the absence of any coherent thesis. The AE911Truth crew is more scary, looking middle-class slick at an AIA conference and then being shut down by one of their own at a pub while drunkenly voicing their ugly hypotheses about why the government would fake the attack.
Alexander Jorgensen who directed Truther is only as competent a filmmaker as Dylan Avery. The editing is not good, pointless fly-on-the-wall scenes run on for too long, the superimposed captions are awkward, Jorgensen uses the trick of masking footage onto screens in shot that aren’t really showing it, and some of Adrian Croom’s music is poor. There’s a long “epilogue” that, aside from mentioning Donald Trump’s then-ongoing campaign and ending with Avery’s eulogy for the “movement”, is not an epilogue. It’s not clear how much Jorgensen understands about the study of conspiracy theory, but the moiré’d cuts from Fight Club (1999) are nice.
The film is ultimately a valuable document of its time. Despite its flaws, the editing does allow the conspiracy theorists to damn themselves by their own words. If you are already familiar with the subject, there is no need for a rebuttal.