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Loose Change   
By Jon Niccum. Fri, Sep 8, 2006
Americans are acclimated to conspiracy theories.

From the assassination of John F. Kennedy to aliens landing in Roswell, N.M., the country’s history has been rife with tales of cabals and cover-ups. And, statistically, most Americans will admit to at least partial belief in these benchmark conspiracies.

But there is one modern conspiracy that is particularly inflammatory: The U.S. government had advance knowledge of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Or worse, it orchestrated them.

That is the contention of a controversial documentary called “Loose Change” that will be screened in Lawrence on the fifth-year anniversary of 9/11.

“It was named ‘Loose Change’ because it is exactly that,” says Korey Rowe, producer of the project. “It is a change. It is waking people up, getting them to activate and stop watching ‘American Idol.’ It’s loose. It’s out there.”

The documentary was created on a laptop computer at a cost of about $2,000. But already the piece has resulted in international attention for the trio of Rowe, director Dylan Avery and co-producer Jason Bermas, who form the production company Louder Than Words.

The project was originally intended to be a fictional film which Avery began writing about his friends discovering that 9/11 was a deliberate strike by the government, not a terrorist attack.

Rowe says, “We were talking about controlled demolition and if the (World Trade Center) buildings were blown up. Then taking the step after that, ‘If the towers were blown up, how did the explosives get in there?’ Then you just fall down the rabbit hole.”

The filmmakers, who are in their early 20s, began cobbling together the data and images that would constitute “Loose Change.”

This was especially demanding for Rowe, who was an Army specialist serving in Iraq.

“I had to give (the footage) to my commanders and make them aware of what I was doing. Otherwise I could get in a lot of trouble. They thought I was wasting my time,” he says.

Rowe, who had previously served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, claims his fellow soldiers had strong reactions to the theories expressed in his film. But they were far more diverse than one might assume.

“(The reactions were) everything from violently upset, to ‘We should all go AWOL,’ to ‘You have some good points, but I want to believe I’m fighting for some good,’ to saying ‘You have too much time on your hands.’ There are so many different people in the military. Everyone is different. It’s such a great place to show a movie and get feedback.”

Ironically, the military never tried to censor his work.

“Because of it they gave me other movie projects to do,” he says. “One of my commanders was retiring so I needed to make a movie roasting him, and I did a fairly good job.”

Local vision

“Loose Change” will be shown at 7 p.m. Monday at Liberty Hall.

The screening is being sponsored by Lawrence-based activist group Tribal Vision, which has been responsible for showcasing other underground-cause films.

“The overall goal is to get information out to people,” says Tim Hjersted, cofounder of Tribal Vision.

Hjersted will be handing out 100 free DVDs of the film to interested audience members. (Louder Than Words openly encourages other parties to copy and distribute its work.)

“The original premise was that a lot of TV news and mainstream news in general does a really poor job of getting out relevant information. A lot of information gets censored. It’s basically a way of creating our own information channel,” he says.

Hjersted first heard about the 9-11 conspiracies a few years ago from a friend who related how the melting point of steel is higher than the heat temperature generated by burning jet fuel — which is a fundamental element of the “controlled demolition” theory.

He claims to believe “about three-fifths” of what is posed in “Loose Change.”

“We are not advocating every point that is made by the film,” Hjersted says. “But we can’t just idly let our government run things. We have to become more engaged with our government. We have to not take issues at face value. We need to investigate for ourselves.”

Government intervention

It’s a busy weekend for Rowe and his Louder Than Words cohorts.

The crew is engaged in making a documentary about the fifth-year anniversary of the attacks. The three men are taking their cameras to ground zero, where they will be handing out free DVDs of “Loose Change” in addition to 2,000 T-shirts that say “Investigate 9-11.”

Are they ever afraid the government might try to shut them up?

“No,” Rowe responds. “And if they do, it’s only going to make us right. If anything, they should be protecting us right now. Because if the three of us end up in a car crash tomorrow, you better believe there is going to be a whole bunch of speculation and it’s going to make our cause explode tenfold. I’m not really worried about my safety; I’m worried about the safety of the 9-11 Truth Movement.”

Although his film makes wild allegations — such as the Pentagon was hit by a Tomahawk missile, not a plane — Rowe doesn’t buy into all the conspiracy theories surrounding the events.

“The one that says no Jews died on 9-11 is absolutely absurd. People who think that ‘the Zionists are behind everything’ are crazy,” he says.

In fact, Rowe says he has no interest in other conspiracy theories that involve the U.S. government.

“I stay on topic to 9-11 and issued to falsified terrorism,” Rowe says. “I don’t dwell into all that other stuff because I don’t want to end up wearing a tin foil hat in 10 years.”