Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

On Monday, I went with two aunts and two uncles to see Fahrenheit 9/11, the new film from Michael Moore. Before I give my thoughts on the movie, let me give my views. I don’t really mention politics too often on this blog, but let it be known that I am NOT a Bush supporter. I disagree with his policies, his beliefs, and his handling of the Iraq situation. Regardless of whether or not I saw the film, I wasn’t going to be voting for Bush.

Now, I’ll talk about the movie.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is a very good film, one that is probably better than Moore’s last film, Bowling for Columbine. This film is more serious, more sober, and not as funny. This film is also more focused than Bowling for Columbine as Moore takes on the Bush administration and the way they have handled the events of September 11th and beyond.

Michael Moore does engage in some of his trademark stunts, but not nearly as much as his last movie. In this film, he tries to get congressmen to enlist their children in the Marines and rides around in an ice cream truck reading the USA Patriot Act to members of Congress. In fact, there is a whole lot less of Michael Moore in this movie. He lets interviews, news footage, clips from speeches by members of the Bush administration, and footage he obtained while in Iraq to make his case.

Like Bowling for Columbine (which featured footage from the actual Columbine event), Fahrenheit 9/11 features a lot of footage which will shock and upset some. We see the Iraqis wounded by coalition fire, soldiers wounded from the war in veterans’ hospitals, and the charred remains of an American soldier dragged through the streets of Iraq. We also see footage of a public beheading in Saudi Arabia as well as soldiers engaging in prisoner abuse similar to the incidents that garnered worldwide scorn. Prisoners are shown blindfolded with hoods placed over their heads. One of the soldiers apparently touched a male prisoner’s genitals and the soldiers make jokes about “Ali Baba still having a hard-on.”

However, there are also a lot of scenes with soldiers that do not put them in a bad light. In fact, when the bad treatment of the prisoners is shown, it is put in a light that doesn’t blame the soldiers at all. Moore also tells the story of a family from his hometown (a family with deep military roots) that loses a son in the war.

One of the things I like about Michael Moore is that he has a knack for making issues entertaining without making light of them or sacrificing information. Fahrenheit 9/11 will probably make the average person laugh, cry, and even get angry without ever seeming disjointed. It’s a strong piece of filmmaking, and will certainly get nominated for an Oscar next year.

As for this film’s ultimate impact...we’ll see. In the case of the audience for the showing I was at, it was a case of “preaching to the choir.” The audience was mixed, but primarily African-American. The lone exception (that I know of) was one white man sitting a few rows down from me. He was the only one who clapped when a clip of Britney Spears had her saying that people should support the President in whatever he does. I have to commend the person not only for having the guts to do that, but to actually stay through the film (although he was the very first person to get up and leave once the film was over).

One thing I have to wonder about is whether or not I would’ve liked this film had it been a documentary supporting Bush. Part of me wants to think I could like a documentary that’s well made even if I didn’t agree with it. But, unless the conservatives get a documentary filmmaker who can entertain and inform as well as Michael Moore, I won’t find out.

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