Wed, 9/11 I will lead the post film discussion at Loew’s Boston

Susan Granger’s review of ‘Out of the Clear Blue Sky’

 Published 3:00 pm, Friday, September 6, 2013
On Sept. 11, there’s a one-night, nationwide theatrical event, “Out of the Clear Blue Sky,” in which documentary filmmaker Danielle Gardner relates the story of Cantor Fitzgerald, the Wall Street bond trading firm that lost 658 employees during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

Formed in 1945 by Bernard Gerald Cantor and John Fitzgerald, the corporate headquarters occupied the 101st to 105th floors of the North Tower, above the impact zone of the hijacked airliner. Cantor Fitzgerald lost more than two-thirds of its 960 personnel that dreadful day, representing one-fourth of the 3,000 people who died.

President/CEO Howard Lutnick was out of the office, taking his son to his first day of kindergarten, but his brother, Gary, was among those killed. This documentary traces two interconnected stories: the staggering impact on the bond business and the heartbreaking relationship between Howard Lutnick and the distraught, grieving families.

While Lutnick pledged to distribute 25 percent of the firm’s profits for the next five years to victims’ families and committed to pay for 10 years of health care, he felt forced to suspend the deceased workers’ paychecks in order to do that. Lutnick was vilified in the press. Yet in 2006, the company completed its promise, having distributed $180 million, along with an additional $17 million from a relief fund administered by Lutnick’s sister, Edie.

In conjunction with the Port Authority of New York, Cantor Fitzgerald filed a civil lawsuit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for allegedly providing money to the al-Qaeda hijackers, but most of the claims against Saudi Arabia were dismissed on Jan. 18, 2005.

Having lost her brother, Doug, that fateful day, Danielle Gardner was determined to expose the very real, mostly unknown, private side to that very public experience, noting: “This film inspires a strong reaction in our audiences and compelling post-screening conversation and commentary.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Out of the Clear Blue Sky” is a compelling 8, an insider’s poignant view of the harrowing tragedy.