Review: The Woman Who Wasn't There
In the aftermath of 9/11, a group of survivors banded together to support one another but one survivor in particular inspired them all. That survivor was Tania Head. Tania’s horrific story of narrowly escaping death from the 78th floor of the south tower, badly burnt was one of true courage and fighting will to survive. But, while she made it out alive of one building, her fiancé, Dave, died in the north tower. Tania’s remarkable story of her recovery and loss catapulted her to being the face of hope in the tragedy as she fought for the rights of the survivors.
But, there was one problem with Tania’s story. It wasn’t true.
The Women Who Wasn’t There is on the shorter side for a documentary running 65 minutes. The director is Angelo Guglielmo.
I really enjoyed this documentary and the way it told the story. Both the story of Tania Head and the other survivors that her lie effected. It touches on the tragedy that is 9/11 however doesn’t go into details of the event. For a more in depth look at 9/11, I recommend The Falling Man. The Falling Man, especially the beginning, takes you back to the day of that event which is an interesting if not a bit confronting.
This documentary is different from other about 9/11 in that there is only a small amount of live footage of the event and instead majority of the content is about the aftermath. Most of the documentary is about the survivors and it tells their story which I found a more positive take on this tragedy.
That is until you discover that the main player in this whole story, who has done an incredible amount of work for the World Trade Centre Survivors’ Network, wasn’t really a survivor. And it kind of blows my mind why she would work so hard and hold on to that lie. What is the benefit for her? Admittedly it put her in some positions where she was able meet and network with some people in power. Maybe it gave her some sympathy that she was looking for due to some other experiences she had earlier in her life. It’s really hard to understand though because I believe she could have contributed to the network being honest and not claiming she was a survivor, just someone who cares enough about the people and what they went through. And even though she did all these amazing things for the survivors, they are stacked against this one big lie.
This documentary just breaks my heart in this very strange way. The chronological way it goes through the story is very well done and easy to watch. The first time I watched The Woman Who Wasn’t There it was just after it was released in 2012, and I must admit that I didn’t know Tania’s story (or lack of, for a better phrase). I benefited from going in blind and I am thankful that the filmmaker left the big reveal until the end. That even though the title says it all, they really let the documentary unravel like a detective story.
I highly recommend it. It isn’t a great investment of your time being that it only runs for an hour. There are a lot of personal stories that really help you feel empathy for the people Tania took advantage of by telling her lie. And it’s a weird kind of tragedy after the tragedy that these people are all connected to this woman that they look up to only to find out that this inspiration has been taken away. It’s a really interesting twist.
After you watch the documentary, listen to our episode on Tania Head here