(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)
Opening this weekend amid huge controversy is Michael Moore's latest film, Fahrenheit 9/11. Various conservative groups have attempted to ban the film and, bizarrely, have suggested that the ads for the film should be considered political ads for Kerry. What these groups don't seem to get is that all this controversy is just free publicity for Fahrenheit 9/11. Anyway, anyone not living off the grid in Idaho probably knows that this film, a critique of the Bush administration, won the Golden Palm for best film at Cannes. It also seemed for a while that this film would be released in every country except the United States. Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney, was shocked and surprised to find that this film had been made by Miramax, which Disney owns, and decided it shouldn't be distributed. This caused more free publicity for the film, but did not, in the end, keep it from being released.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is made in Michael Moore's very personal documentary style. To some extent, he always makes himself the subject of his documentary, starting with Roger & Me and continuing with Bowling for Columbine. The new film analyzes the Bush administration's dealings with Osama Bin Laden and the War on Terror before and after 9/11. Much of what is reported in Fahrenheit 9/11 is already common knowledge so there aren't many bombshells. But Moore's narrative which puts all the facts together, including graphic footage of events in Iraq, has a big impact. The first half of the film concentrates on Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz etc., emphasizing Bush's somewhat less than total concentration on his job especially before 9/11, and the ideological zeal of his minions. There are some great Moore bits like when he goes around asking members of Congress to have their children to join the armed forces. Only one member of Congress has a child serving in the military. The second half of the film concentrates on the effects of the war in Iraq on the soldiers and their families. Once again, Moore returns to his hometown, Flint, Michigan and spotlights a family there.
This new film doesn't have the smooth narrative flow of Bowling for Columbine. Watching Fahrenheit 9/11 is more like being hit on the head over and over. Moore contested the "R" rating that Fahrenheit 9/11 received but I have to say that it probably deserves it. There are a number of shocking scenes, mostly in Iraq, of mangled bodies, both Iraqi and American. Are the facts and events, portrayed in Fahrenheit 9/11, true? Well, the short answer is yes. The stuff in the movie is all out there in the public record. Moore dug up very little that is new. But much of what he shows on the screen has had very little play in the mainstream press. Fahrenheit 9/11 is definitely a biased portrait of 9/11 and its ramifications because Moore is trying to make a point. But, I noted that he had made some edits to the film, before it was released this week, responding to some of the criticisms from the right. For instance, it is now clear in the film that, although the Bush administration did arrange to fly members of Bin Laden's family out of the country after 9/11 without asking them any questions, the family members didn't get on a plane until 9/13 when flights resumed. As a leftie, I naturally came away from this film thinking, why oh why are the polls so close when Bush is the worst President of all time. Of course, unfortunately, most of the people who see this film will be lefties like me. But go and see this film and decide for yourself.