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Surviving Mumbai
Surviving Mumbai (2009)
  • Director:
    Victoria Midwinter Pitt
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Phil Craig,Victoria Midwinter Pitt
  • Cast:
    Pamela Rabe,Penelope Andrews,Debra Bayne
  • Time:
  • Year:
The story of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack told by those who managed to survive it.
Credited cast:
Pamela Rabe Pamela Rabe - Herself - Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Penelope Andrews Penelope Andrews - Hotel Hostage
Debra Bayne Debra Bayne - Herself
Alex Chamberlen Alex Chamberlen - Himself
Sebastian D'Souza Sebastian D'Souza - Himself
John Davison John Davison - Hotel Hostage
Drew Dickson Drew Dickson - Himself
Jacob Graham Jacob Graham - Anthony Rose
Warren Lyons Warren Lyons - Gunman
Alison Markell Alison Markell - Herself
Meltem Muezzinoglu Meltem Muezzinoglu - Herself
Seyfi Muezzinoglu Seyfi Muezzinoglu - Himself
Amit Peshave Amit Peshave - Himself
Anjali Pollack Anjali Pollack - Herself
Michael Pollack Michael Pollack - Himself

Surviving Mumbai (2009)

The "drama [scenes in this documentary were] filmed in Perth, Western Australia" according to this film's closing credits.

The film's closing credits state: "Terrorists' conversations have been revoiced from Indian Intelligence transcripts of mobile phone intercepts."

The most notable targets of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks were the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly known as Victoria Station); the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel; the Leopold Café; the Trident-Oberoi Hotel; and Nariman House, a Jewish community center.

There were shootings in the streets and strikes on many other locations during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

172 people were killed in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. These included many local Mumbaikars as well as visitors from all over the world. At both hotels many staff died or were wounded as they attempted to protect their guests.

Just ten gunmen, Indian authorities said, were responsible for the attacks. Many people dispute this figure, arguing that help from others must have been necessary to gain access and carry out the attacks. They came by boat from Pakistan and on landing in Mumbai Harbour split up into pairs and spread out across the city. They were from Jihhadist group Lashkar-e Taiba.

Despite the terrorist's proclaimed Islamist agenda, there were scores of Muslims amongst their victims. The bodies of the nine gunmen who were killed remain unclaimed at the time, and were held in Mumbai's morgue. The Indian Islamic Council declined to give them an Islamic burial.

At the time that this film was first released, the lone surviving gunman, 21-year old, Azam Amir Kasab was currently on trial in India, on a host of charges ranging from making war on India to fare evasion at Victoria Station.

The the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks were mounted within minutes of each other. Some were straight out ambush attacks, such as the strike on Victoria Station and the Leopold Café. At The Taj Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel and Nariman House, there were multiple killings as the gunmen entered the buildings and then a state of siege developed. In both hotels, the gunmen went from floor to floor and room to room seeking out targets. They also lit fires, and many people perished in the smoke.

Hundreds of people caught up in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks later reported that their mobile phones had been critical to their survival. The ability to access information literally meant the difference between life and death. News reports gathered instantly from all over the world informed those suddenly caught up in the terror, that this was not a hit and run attack, that the gunmen were still in the building and to stay in hiding until they were told it was safe to leave.

Deirdre Bayne, daughter of hotel survivor Debra Bayne, was on the other side of the world in British Columbia, Canada when the 2008 Mumbia terrorist attacks occurred. She was doing research in a remote village with indigenous communities, but still saw news of the attacks on her hotel television. When news of the attack broke, the chief insisted on collecting Deirdre from her hotel and Deirdre watched the rest of the siege unfold on television from his home, surrounded by his family. At one stage Debra was able to reassure Deirdre that she was a long way from the fighting, high up on the 19th floor, while all the gunfire was downstairs in the lobby. Not long after, news reports showed that the gunmen had moved up through the Oberoi Hotel, the floor they had dug in on? The 19th.

Michael and Anjali Pollack were married in the Taj Hotel. They were back having dinner with friends when the attacks began. Before dinner, Anjali went to buy a book in the bookshop on the other side of the hotel. If she had stayed only a few more minutes, she would have been caught in the opening gun fire in the lobby.

Meltem Muezzinoglu's telephone was seized by the gunmen and used to communicate with their handlers over the next days. Meltem's husband Seyfi says they later got a bill many times the normal amount.

Anthony Rose credits his mobile phone with saving his life in the Taj hotel with it being connected to information from all over the world instantly gave him the best possible options to survive. Within an hour of escaping from the siege in 2008, and giving a quick interview to news cameras, he'd become part of the news cycle too: immortalized by a young man in Texas, USA who saw the interview and uploaded to You Tube as a song he wrote on the spot: "The Ballad Of Anthony Rose".

British media executive Alex Chamberlen's work with the Indian Premier League had made him a frequent visitor to Mumbai, India. He and several other guests in 2008 were taken hostage by gunmen at the Oberoi Hotel, and led up the fire stairs. Under the cover of smoke he escaped from the gunmen. Most of the group were later executed.

Australian architect Drew Dickson was in Mumbai, India as part of an Australian trade delegation from News South Wales, when terrorists attacked the Oberoi Hotel in 2008. After a failed escape attempt, he and colleague Debra Bayne were forced to barricade themselves in a smoke filled hotel room on the 19th floor. After breaking a window so that they could breathe, they spent twenty hours, only a few rooms away from the terrorists, until they were finally rescued.

Australian lawyer Debra Bayne headed a software company and was visiting Mumbai, India as a member of the of an Australian trade delegation from News South Wales, when the Oberoi Hotel came under attack in 2008. She hid with colleague, Drew Dickson, in a smoke-filled room on the 19th floor, while terrorists fired AK47s and threw grenades in nearby rooms. After an ordeal which lasted nearly twenty hours, they were finally freed when Indian security forces blasted down their door.

American Michael Pollack was a merchant banker whilst Anjali Pollack, who was born and raised in Mumbai in India, was an Interior Designer. The couple were married in the Taj Mahal Hotel's Crystal Ballroom. They were in Mumbai visiting friends and family when they were caught up in the events at the Taj in 2008. Under the protection of staff, the couple hid from the terrorists in different areas of the hotel for twelve hours, until being rescued by Indian commandos. Since the attacks, they have begun a charitable trust in Mumbai focused on education.

Australian Alison Markell and her husband Doug Markell, a retired businessman and former Sydney local councilor, were on their last night of a long trip around India, when they heard from their 3rd floor room a sound like firecrackers. They remained there for five hours, until they were forced to flee, with flames at their door. Terrorists fired upon them as they tried to escape. Alison survived, but tragically Doug did not.

Anthony Rose was a film director. He was in Mumbai, India filming a luxury travel program in 2008, when gunfire broke out in the lobby of the Taj Mahal Hotel, only moments after he had checked-in. Rose and his crew barricaded themselves in a nearby bar for six hours, until fire in the hotel forced them to break a window and escape.

Turkish architect, Seyfi Müezzinoglu is the son Ziya Müezzinoglu, the Turkish Minister of Finance in the late 1970s. Meltem Müezzinoglu was the CEO of a pharmaceuticals company. The couple were making their first visit to Mumbai, India to attend an international pharmaceuticals conference. They were half way through dinner at the Oberoi Hotel when the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008 began. They were taken hostage by the gunmen for several hours. They are among the few people to have had close contact with the terrorists and survived.

Amit Peshave was the manager of the Masala Kraft Restaurant in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. He had worked at the Taj for two and a half years. At the time of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks he was working in the Shamiana Restaurant. Soon after the attacks, he kicked open a door to escape the hotel but chose to go back in and help the guests.

Sebastian D'Souza was the photo editor for the Mumbai Mirror newspaper. The paper's offices are directly across the road from Victoria Station, one of the first sites of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. D'Souza ran into the station and tracked the gunmen as they moved through. His astonishing pictures of the carnage and the gunmen were seen all over the world.

On 26th November 2008, ten young Pakistani men sailed into Mumbai, India's thriving financial heart and home of the Bollywood film industry. The men were armed with AK47s, grenades and plastic explosives, as well as satellite phones and global positioning systems connecting them to their controllers. They spread out across the city. Quick fire strikes on the Victoria Station Railway Station, the busiest train terminus in India, the legendary Leopold Café, and Cama Hospital saw more than a hundred dead in only an hour. But this was just the beginning. The gunmen had come for a longer engagement, in targets chosen to grab and hold the world's attention: the historic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, the ultra modern 5 star Oberoi-Trident Hotel, and Jewish Community center, Nariman House. Sixty hours later, the Indian security forces brought the attacks to a close.

This documentary brings together candid and very personal accounts from the ordinary and extraordinary people who were caught up in the siege. Readings from the actual transcript of phone calls between the gunmen and their commanders, intercepted by Indian intelligence, and CCTV footage from the hotels give a chilling real-life edge to their stories.The film also explores the dramatic role that modern communications played: mobile phones, the internet and 24 hour television news gave vital information not just to those in hiding - but to the killers commanders in Pakistan.

This program was nominated for two TV Emmy Awards at the 31st Annual Emmy Awards for News and Documentary in 2010. They were for Outstanding Historical Programming and Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Research.

This documentary looks at the horrific terrorist attacks that took place in November 2008, when highly trained gunmen, controlled via satellite phone calls from Pakistan, rampaged through the city leaving a trail of dead behind them.

This production's writer and director Victoria Midwinter Pitt, said of this film: "Surviving terrorism has become a world obsession. Every attack is watched in real time, by millions - felt and feared around the world. But for all its complex causes and consequences, it is - as an act - necessarily personal: inflicted by one human being upon another. The real experience of terror is a story seldom heard by anyone but family and closest friends. But this is that story. Told by people who had a lot of time to think about it - the people caught up in not seconds or minutes of terror like 09/11 or the London Bombings, but stuck for days, in the siege of Mumbai. The keys to Surviving Mumbai then are its personal focus and its exploration of how, in a protracted situation, people survive terror."

Andrew Ogilvie, an Australian executive producer on this production, said of the film: "I began working on the idea for a film with co-executive Producer Phil Craig within twenty-four hours of the first attacks in Mumbai. The stories we were hearing of human courage were inspiring and I was fascinated by the role that modern communications technology played in the unfolding drama. Now, one year later, I feel privileged to have worked on a film which is a very special account of human resilience and fortitude in the face of pure evil. It's an incredibly intimate and powerful story."

Phil Craig, a British executive producer on this production, said of the film: "I have made several documentaries about terror attacks - on Bali, Madrid, New York and Washington - but, even as the news from Mumbai was breaking, it was clear that something different was happening there. Rather than an explosion and its consequences, this was a story about a hunt. I was fascinated by every emerging detail of how the people trapped inside the hotels tried to escape, or simply tried to avoid the gunmen, and even more fascinated once it became clear that the killers and their prey were using the same technology. Victoria Pitt has done a remarkable job on this film. The frankness, the dignity and the insight of her interviews show how fully the survivors of Mumbai came to trust her. And, once again, it has been a pleasure working with Andrew Ogilvie and his first class team at Electric Pictures."

The 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks began around 9:40 pm on Wednesday 26th November 2008.

The last of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks was declared at an end on the following Saturday morning on 29th November2008.

The targets in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks were multiple co-ordinated attacks on places across Mumbai it being India's largest city, financial capital, and home to the Bollywood film industry.

The Official Director's Statement on this film's story by director Victoria Pitt reads: "The Mumbai terror attacks grabbed and held the world's attention for three days. But in many ways, the story - in words and pictures - that we all absorbed, was an opaque account. It included news footage from the outside of burning buildings, quick sound bites from survivors as they rushed from the siege, and later brisk accounts from the trial of the one surviving gunman. But what actually went on inside those buildings? What went on in the heads of the people who one minute were eating dinner, or reading in bed, and the next were the prey in a deadly game of cat and mouse?. We read and hear so much about terrorism, but what is it actually like to experience it?. That is the territory Surviving Mumbai sets out to explore. Early on we decided that we would not attempt to explain the politics and geopolitics of the attack; that our focus would be strictly personal. The interesting thing about that decision is that in diving deeply into the personal experiences of the people caught up in the siege, a very rich account of the politics naturally emerged. Turkish Muslim couple Seyfi and Meltem Muezzinoglu were hostages of the gunmen for eight hours: their account will challenge anyone who assumes that Islam and Terrorism are naturally connected. Similarly the final response of so many in the film to the young men who tried to kill them - mercy - throws out a challenge with unique authority (the authority of direct experience) to impulses of vengeance in the face of terrorism. These very individual and authentic experiences are the real strength of the film. With that focus we were entirely dependent on the people whose story it was to tell. We met with extraordinary generosity from the Oberoi Hotel and the Taj Mahal Hotel and the many individuals caught up in the attacks. We sat down to speak with these people only months after the most traumatic experience of their lives. They - and so many others who do not appear in the film - displayed stunning courage in sharing their experiences. It was an old fashioned act of Bearing Witness - wanting to record and tell what really happened."

The Official Director's Statement on this film's style by director Victoria Pitt reads: "Realising their accounts as pictures has been a huge challenge. One of the key visual notes of the film is the Unseen. Very few of our characters saw the terrorists. But they heard them and were intimately connected to them for hours in imagination. It's what Anthony Rose calls the Orson Welles Theatre of the Mind effect. Surviving Mumbai works with this dynamic - using the audience's imagination, drawing our viewers in, rather than presenting full literal visual details. Sound is the star of our film - footsteps, gunfire, grenades, the creak of a door swinging ominously open. The drama was shot with an absolute determination not to re-enact or recreate. Nothing could compete with the authenticity of the accounts we had. Our aim was to respond to the mood, and the predicament our interviewees relate. So it is, above all, impressionistic. Early on, I found myself dreaming about the attacks, picking up on details so many people had told me. My dreams (nightmares really) were all about shadows and half seen figures. This became the film's visual language. Figures in our drama sequences are almost never seen in clear resolution; instead they're vaguely glimpsed through a haze of smoke or gunfire. Shadows are seen in the narrow, intently-studied space under a door. Doors generally are a powerful motif. It's all about suspense. This means that while the drama tracks the specific narrative of our character's accounts, it does so in a way that is suggested, defocused, not entirely resolved. Stillness and silence are essential to this rhythm."

One of a number of dramatic film dramatizations about or based on or inspired by the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. The films are [in order of release]: 'Surviving Mumbai' (2009) (aka the "Mumbai Massacre" episode of the "Secrets of the Dead" television series in the USA); the short film 'Embrace' (2012); the Hindi film 'Shahid' (2012); the Bollywood movie 'The Attacks of 26/11' (2013); the French feature film 'Taj Mahal' (2015); 'One Less God' (2017) (aka 'The Mumbai Siege' / 'The Mumbai Siege: 4 Days Of Terror'); and 'Hotel Mumbai' (2018).