Film celebrates tightrope walk between Twin Towers

Fri May 2, 2008 8:06am EDT
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By Daniel Trotta and Vivianne Rodrigues

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Even before they were built, New York's Twin Towers provided a dream for Philippe Petit, and he spent six years chasing that dream until he conquered them with a spectacular, illegal act.

On August 7, 1974, the Frenchman walked between the towers on a wire, without a net or a harness, some 1,362 feet (415 meters) above ground -- a seemingly impossible feat of guerrilla theater.

The story of what Petit and his team accomplished after months of scheming is the topic of "Man on Wire," a documentary screening at New York's Tribeca Film Festival.

"This film is about life: The life of the towers and the life of a mad poet aided by a few friends who clearly did the impossible. And that's what mad poets do," Petit, now 58, said from a Manhattan tavern.

The festival was created in 2002 in response to the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Director James Marsh chose not to mention the attacks in the film, concentrating on Petit and his co-conspirators.

"Why burden a surprising fairytale that happens to be true and happened in 1974?" said Marsh, shoehorned into the booth next to Petit.

Marsh weaves never-before-seen archival footage of Petit's preparations with dramatizations and interviews into something of a heist film, keeping viewers guessing as to how they achieved something Marsh called "subversive and beautiful."

"Man on Wire" won the grand jury prize and audience award for world cinema documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival in January despite limited buzz and screenings.   Continued...

<p>New York city's lower Manhatten skyline is dominated by the twin towers of the World Trade centre in this October 1985 file photo. REUTERS/Greg Bos</p>