This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
With the approach of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there is an abundance of television programming that looks back.
"George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview" stands out, however. The former president granted just one interview - two two-hour sessions on consecutive days in which he talked about the events of Sept. 11. And those comments were boiled down into this hourlong special on the National Geographic Channel, which airs Sunday at 8 and 11 p.m.
"The idea behind the film was to make it as personable and as revealing and as insightful as we possibly could," said Peter Schnall, the filmmaker who actually asked the questions. (Although the only voice heard is Bush's.)
Schnall, who had earlier gained unprecedented access for documentaries about Air Force One and Marine One, spent four months talking with the former president's team to arrange the interview.
"Right off the bat, we did say the idea behind the film would be that the president would be the only on-camera person," he said. "That it would be his recollections, it would be his voice, and that was the design of the film itself.
"This film is definitely his 10-year look sort of in the rearview mirror of his life at an event that, without a doubt, changed his presidency as it changed our lives."
And Bush has never sat down and talked about it on camera the way he does in "The 9/11 Interview."
"We feel that we created a sort of significant historical film in that the president, in perhaps more detail than he's ever done before in a film, spoke about hour by hour, day by day, the events that he went through."
There is, however, nothing earth-shattering in the interview.
"There were no major surprises politically or things that he has held back for the past 10 years," Schnall said. "I feel that the audience will come away from this film having a deeper understanding - sort of a bigger window of what it must have been like to have been the president of the United States during a moment when the United States was under attack, when the president of the United States was on the run, when he didn't know who the enemy was for the first few hours, when he had to make decisions at 40,000 feet about whether or not to shoot down commercial airplanes. And it's all such a fascinating journey."
It is, of course, an interview conducted nearly a decade later. And, clearly, Bush has an eye on his own legacy as he justifies his own actions, some of which became controversial as time passed.
"Whether or not you believe in his politics, whether or not you believe in what he did later on was correct or incorrect, that's not necessarily what this film is about," Schnall said. "It leads to all that eventually, but I think what was most surprising was how personal he is in this film."