Film Reviews…


Here are excerpts of and links to some of the reviews about the film. I thought seeing almost nine years of my life play out on screen was surreal enough, but then reading about myself through the words of critics adds a whole other level of crazy to the mix. I can’t help but wonder about that day in the future, when our daughters will be old enough to understand, and I tell them about this part of my life, show them the fim and all of these archives…my heart rate just picked up and I’ve got butterflies in my stomach–whoa.

We shall see.


“Rebirth is both a work of art and of the heart. His five heroes — and the word never has seemed more appropriate — have opened up their lives to him in interviews and scenes involving their families, caregivers and colleagues.”

Read more here.

New York Times

August 21, 2011

“Ms. Tepper said she participated because she was afraid that people would move on after 9/11. She is often tearful as she tries to make sense of a life without Sergio, her fiancé, and begins dating again. She eventually married and at age 43 lives in Miami with her husband, Ray Tepper, a contractor, and their two young daughters.

Her biggest surprise, she said, is that she managed to carve out a happy ending. Watching “Rebirth,” she was struck by all the different ways that people suffer and all the ways they get through it, she said. For herself, she added, “I learned that I can pretty much handle anything.””

Read more here.

August 30, 2011

“And Tanya Villanueva Tepper, who lost her fiancé and is perhaps this film’s most compelling character study, is strikingly honest as she talks first about her grief, then her decision to let love back into her life. She marries, but only after she has her first child does she realize that it’s odd that she still has photographs on display of her pre-9/11 fiancé.

“I just said, it’s time for me; I have to take these down,” she says of the pictures. “I have to let myself off the hook.””

Read more here.


“The stories of 9-11 are filled with such ironies, coincidences and sadness. Much of the hundreds of hours of television specials related to the 10th anniversary of the tragedy will be looking back, remembering or trying to make sense out the senseless. The documentary Rebirth, which airs on Showtime, charts the course of five people, including Tepper, and their efforts toward recovery. The film relies on the captivating, emotional and even poetic interviews of its subjects rather than narrators recounting the facts or images reliving the horrors of the day.”

Read more here.


“Whitaker’s film is not just compelling viewing; it serves as a valuable historical record for future generations.

For those of us who witnessed or were in any way impacted by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, it is a lesson, reminding us that from the throes of despair can rise the magnificence of new beginnings. It stands as a testament to the world that those we lost that day did not go quietly, nor did they go in vain.”

Read more here.


“Rebirth also brings to life the journey of Tanya, a woman who lost her fiancé and firmly believed she could never be intimate again, and certainly never start a family with someone who wasn’t her beloved Sergio. However, Tanya went on years later to fall in love, get married and bring two beautiful daughters into the world. Nonetheless, she admitted at times she is still struck by a little guilt in allowing herself to be happy, a concept she once thought was never possible again.”Time does heal the intensity of that, but I still have triggers that make me go ‘wow,'” Tanya said. “But I have been able to let go and embrace my new life.””

Read more here.


September 9, 2011

“Of all the documentaries about Sept. 11, none is more intimate than “Rebirth,” a new film that draws its drama not from the cataclysmic nature of the attacks themselves but from lives of five people who lost loved ones or were injured. The film, which airs Sunday on Showtime, combines time-lapse photography of the Freedom Tower slowly taking form on Ground Zero with interviews of the subjects conducted each year from 2002 to 2009. As the characters wrestle with grief, their lives take surprising and dramatic turns, and the effect is a powerful, riveting film that transcends the specifics of 9/11 and considers the universal question of how people deal with loss. The director, Jim Whitaker, talked to The Huffington Post about his experience making it.”

Read more here.

September 11, 2011

“As the subjects develop a relationship and rapport with Whitaker, the viewer becomes intimately invested in each of their struggles to make sense out of what has happened to them. Their testimony bears witness to the human effort to understand relationships, love, pain, and psychological ambivalence. Personal philosophies shift, as they each endeavor to emerge from the ashes of the phoenix. A consistent theme is the ambivalence of being caught between the desire to move forward and the need to stay connected to the past.Tanya, who lost her fiancé, a New York City First Responder, explains it as, “Letting go without letting go.” Later, despite the new beginnings she has been able to forge, she reveals, “The truth is, you don’t move on. Something is always there.” However, she notes, “The grief is very private now.””

Read more here.


“The movie fairly brims with inherently emotional suspense, whether it’s following how firefighter Tim, who lost a colleague in the collapse of the World Trade Center, deals with his overpowering guilt, or how then-teenage Nicholas — whose mother worked in the towers that day — loses touch with a father whose grief takes a different path.

Other participants include teary, passionate Tanya, whose firefighter fiancé died that day, and who makes telling observations about everything from how bad news gets delivered to her jealousy toward new parents to the turmoil of dating again. And as we watch the uncertain progress of tower escapee Ling’s second- and third-degree burns, the resilience of her humor becomes the deeper, more affirming tale.”

Read more here.

Daily News

September 2, 2011

“This incredibly moving, touchingly honest and transcendent chronicle of how a handful of people coped after Sept. 11 is not only one of the best distillations of that day, but a monument to humanity lost and gained. Director Jim Whitaker talks to five people — beginning on the one-year anniversary, and continuing through 2009 — and intercuts each of them telling their stories and working through numbness, grief and attempts to heal. As times goes on, we see them struggle to “let go without letting go,” as Tanya Tepper, whose fiancé was a fallen firefighter, says.”

Read more here.

September 10, 2011

“Their interviews, to the credit of filmmaker Jim Whitaker, are straightforward and unadorned. No music, no dramatic staged film footage. Just five people talking about their lives that day.

Whitaker began talking to them a month after Sept. 11 and visited them regularly over the next nine years.

The result is the cinematic equivalent of time-lapse photography. We see the big changes in their lives, like when Tanya decides to move to Miami, but we also see the changes that happen so gradually they may be almost imperceptible day to day.”

Read more here.

Slant Magazine Logo

“Tanya’s is a pain haunted by nostalgia, the imminent ache of the present, and the crippling fear of a future lost. Rebirth doesn’t just document all three variables as something personal and inclusive; the film establishes her human experience as a window into the heartache of a nation, a potent individual pain shared by many.”

Read more here.


“As the years go by, each participant undertakes a wrenching journey from numb grief through survivor’s guilt, anger, hopelessness and at least one diagnosed case of post-traumatic stress disorder. But although the subjects are markedly different in their backgrounds and stories, in 2006 each begins a subtle emotional shift from unresolved loss toward acceptance and tentative optimism.”

Read more here.

“So it’s a multi-pronged approach to getting underneath and allowing people to understand the messiness and challenges of grief-but also that there’s hope at the end of the road, because it can be very dark for people, especially in the early years. While the grief may never quite leave you, it doesn’t mean you can’t, as Tanya says in the movie, have joy in your life.”

Read more here.

Daily Mail

“Through Tanya’s life – and those of the other four proponents – Whitaker tells the story of the city and the nation’s healing.

As Tanya says, palpable relief in her voice from the knowledge that she has come through the worst: ‘I have a completely new life. I have a family now.'”

Read more here.


“Shortly after opening in select theaters last month (it hits more markets throughout September), Jim Whitaker’s documentary portrait of emotional and physical rebuilding following 9/11, “Rebirth,” hits DVD today. It’s iW’s pick of the week.

The film, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, chronicles a decade in the lives of five people profoundly affected by the 9/11 attacks. Among them: a student whose mother died, a woman who survived the impact zone with severe burns, and a firefighter who lost one his best friends.

iW spoke with one of the film’s most memorable subjects, Tanya Villaneuva Tepper, a widow of a first responder, who over the course of the film gains the courage to move on to new adventures.”

Read more here.


““This project was hard because you became attached emotionally to these families,” Beverly said.  “But it was wonderful too because you became part of the family.”

Tanya Villanueva Tepper, one of the five people depicted, lost her fiancé in the attack and now is married with two children who call Beverly “Aunt Dana.”

“The whole film crew was present at the births of Tanya’s two children,” Beverly said.  “It was one of the several important life occasions that we filmed for this documentary.”

The crew filmed interviews once a year, which often lasted 4-5 hours per person.

“Jim would film two per day around the anniversary of 9/11, and we would also film events such as birthdays, Tanya’s wedding and 9/11 anniversary ceremonies,” Beverly said.””

Read more here.


“While Rebirth makes fascinating use of the time-lapse footage of the rebuilding, it is the profoundly affected five subjects with compelling stories of trauma, bravery and recovery who provide the emotional life and narrative spine of the film. Their presence, also recorded over many years (Whitaker calls this the doc’s “human time-lapse”) and captured digitally as they sit alone against a black background, gives the picture the distinction of being the first long-term film record of 9/11 survivors and families coping with grief and trauma.”

Read more here.


“Take Tanya, an instantly lovable firefighter’s fiancé who lost her “soul mate” in the midst of planning for their wedding and life together. We see her envy toward other women whose lives move forward with ease while she feels stuck mourning the life she lost.

We also see her moments of sanctuary — riding her motorcycle or escaping to Miami — that allow her some space to heal.”

Read more here.


“All are touching but, for me, the most emotional was Tanya, who was in her early 30s at the time and lost her beloved fiancé Sergio.  She openly admits that she wasn’t even sure which of the two towers he was working in.  Each year, as we track her progress, we can see a woman grieving this loss, but coming to the realization that life must go on.  What we get from her is a woman who sees her relationship with Sergio as forever unfinished, she mourns the loss of her love but also the loss of the life she never got to have.  It is about the five year mark when she makes the difficult decision to start dating again.  What her new boyfriend tells her about Sergio is one of the most beautiful sentiments I can think of.  I’ll leave it for you to discover.  She moves on with her life, never forgetting Sergio, but ultimately arriving at a point where she knows that it is time to let him go.”

Read more here.

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