DOCUMENTARY "The Woman Who Wasn't There"
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday night from 8 to 9:30 on ID
REASON TO WATCH It's like a 9/11 episode of "Columbo": You already know the "shocking reveal" (see title), yet there's endless fascination seeing the how and why unravel.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Tania Head was a World Trade Center survivors group leader who couldn't do enough for others who'd endured that trauma. She held their hands as they shared tales of 9/11 horror, with hers being "head and shoulders above anything else that any of us had gone through," says one man who became a confidant.
In addition to crawling through burning debris and spending weeks in the hospital, Head had also lost the man she loved that day in the WTC, the man who'd swept her off her feet and "Maui'ed" her in a circle of rose petals on a Hawaiian beach. Yet, on she kept working to help others, providing go-to comfort to broken souls who testify they don't know how they'd have continued otherwise. She made best friends with women who loved her for reaching out when she herself had suffered the most. No one could imagine her pain.
Except her. Because Tania Head had imagined everything.
MY SAY Just wow. Director Angelo Guglielmo has put together a gut punch of a story here. Maker of the 9/11 volunteers documentary "The Heart of Steel," he'd been approached by Head in 2006 to shoot a film about 9/11 survivors. Ironic timing gave him inside access to Head and her loyal compatriots before the story of her fraud broke in 2007. The result is this spellbinder, told entirely first-person by those first helped, then betrayed by her stunning pack of lies.
Guglielmo's film, from Meredith Vieira Productions, uses a light touch to illuminate the story while letting its inherent drama play out for itself. There's stylized animation to depict Head's "memories." There's judicious use of music, natural sounds and news footage. Filming in far-flung locations reveals more about the mystery. And sequences of Head earlier sharing her recollections are well timed in both their insertion and their length, giving us the chance to stare into this woman's eyes, and soul.
There's even a final shocker, after all!
BOTTOM LINE Pain and tragedy aren't ever quite so clear-cut.