Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring||Michael Moore, George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb|
|Producer||Michael Moore, Kathleen Glynn, Jim Czarnecki|
|Distributor||Lions Gate Films|
“Controversy… What controversy?”
Michael Moore’s latest documentary “Fahrenheit 9-11” and winner of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival is a determined attack on the current Bush administration. It argues it was this administration and, specifically, President George W. Bush’s fault regarding the attacks of September 11th, and claims there is nothing but greed motivating the war in Iraq. Using satire and a strong sardonic tone, it is a focused endeavor to scorn this nation’s political leaders.
The film begins by going back to the Presidential election of 2000 between George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. This introduction is merely a set-up and reinstates one belief that the election was bogus. For Moore, it is a matter of fact that Al Gore was the real winner of this election, and therefore he believes that Bush’s current time in office began on faulty terms.
The second part of the introduction attempts to establish that President Bush acted completely irresponsibly prior to the September 11th attacks. With cheery cartoon music added, Moore states that President Bush spent forty-two percent of his time on vacation in August 2001. Then on September 10th, he went peacefully to sleep in Florida.
Bookending the body of the film is footage of President Bush, Dick Cheney, Collin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and others prepping for televised interviews. Perhaps unbeknownst to them, the cameras were running while they put on make-up, combed their hair, smiled at those behind the camera, put in their earpieces, and recited to themselves their opening remarks. Near the end of the film, there is a clever reprise of these men after their television spots, taking out their earpieces and walking away. The ominous music used in both places makes the effect all very disenchanting.
Going into the body of his argument, Moore handles the events of September 11th quite respectfully. Understanding that the world has already seen the footage of the attacks on the World Trade Center over and over, he refrains from showing us that footage again. Instead, we stare at a pure black screen while we listen to the sounds of the attacks. We hear the first plane hit, and then hear the second plane hit while people scream and cry in horror. Since we already know the horror, we play out the events in our mind and emotions. After the black screen, we only see the people’s faces as they stare up at the buildings, followed by other poetic, slow motion images of dust and paper floating after the collapses. The most sublime was a shot of two people sitting in front of a park praying.
The film is correctly rated “R.” The images of violence of the war are ones no one wants to see. The first image of the fighting in Iraq is of a charred body of a baby that a man throws into the back of a truck with several other dead bodies. Aside from the war footage, one clip shows (from a long distance) a public beheading performed in Saudi Arabia. There is footage of explosions, wounded soldiers in hospitals, and one moment where American soldiers break into an Iraqi home searching for a suspect, while the people who live there are completely frightened. The bodies of American soldiers are also shown being publicly hung and beaten.
There a couple moments of foul language, with one happening in a song while the U.S. drops bombs. The song says, “We don’t need no water, let the mother f***** burn!!!” and is repeated a few times.
The most developed storyline in the film is about a woman from Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan. Considering herself a “conservative Democrat,” she has had several of her children serve in the U.S. military. Her daughter was part of Desert Storm and, tragically, she lost her son in the current war in Iraq.
Moore interviews her extensively, showing her support for service in the armed forces, but, by the end, shows her disenfranchised due to her current heartache. She reads the last letter sent by her son, which she received after he was killed. In it, he states his disapproval of President Bush. This woman’s husband also asks what the reason is for the fighting.
Moore presents the argument that President Bush had designs (as President) to attack Iraq before he took office. Moore disavows any sincere motive on the war on terror, claiming that Bush is solely interested in making money. Evidence is presented showing business relations between the Bush family and the bin Laden family, amidst claims that Bush is more interested in securing his financial investments than the security and benefit of the American people. Moore purports that Bush receives over a billion dollars from the Saudis, compared to the $400,000 for being President, and concludes that his true interests lie overseas.
Another criticism involving the bin Laden family is that Osama’s relatives, who lived in the U.S. during the September 11th attacks, were the only ones allowed to fly. Questions are raised as to why they weren’t questioned before they left, as would be normal procedure. Furthermore, it was stated that Saudi Arabia has 860 billion dollars invested in the United States, which is roughly six to seven percent of the economy. Here again, the argument is built that President Bush is solely interested in money.
Many more facts and ideas are presented throughout this documentary. Moore presents the information at a pretty rapid pace and doesn’t really allow the audience time to think them over. He uses facts, but also exaggerates them, and relies heavily on conjecture. If you already agree with his ideas, then it will clearly be entertaining and affirming. If you don’t know the details already, don’t expect an objective presentation from his spin on them.
This film is presented entertainingly, but more than anything incites animosity and contempt for our President.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None
Off-site articles that may be of interest about this controversial film
The Truth About “Fahrenheit 9/11” (Fox News, June 29, 2004)—foxnews.com/story/0,2933,124079,00.html
Moore Lies: moorelies.com
Democrats and the Fahrenheit 9/11 Trap: Do they endorse Michael Moore’s kookiness? (National Review)—nationalreview.com/york/york200406240908.asp
Michael Moore’s Web site: michaelmoore.com
Note: July 29, 2004—According to Reuters News Service, “‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ was shown on prime time Cuban state-run television on Thursday after playing to packed cinemas for a week… In a speech on Monday, Castro portrayed Bush as a ‘sinister’ religious fundamentalist bent on destroying Cuban socialism…” In contrast, the Prime Minister of Australia said that ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ is a “propaganda” film. “It is quite possible for something to be biased propaganda and to be factually in error yet be good entertainment.” He said that the film appears to contain significant factual errors. One reviewer points out that the movie claimed a planned oil pipeline scheme was one of the key reasons for the US ousting Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. The pipeline plan was actually dropped years earlier.