Michael Moore covers just about all possible bases in his documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 that shocked the U.S. box office with a 20+ million dollar plus opening weekend, more than his previous Oscar® winning documentary Bowling For Columbine made in its entire run. Moore already achieved critical acclaim when this film became only the second film in history to win the Palm d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. The real heart of the matter becomes the elements in this film that prompt, or sometimes manipulate, the audience response.
It was quite unique experience to share with a full theater as I listened to audience reactions on opening day. Not since The Passion of the Christ have people openly sobbed in the theater and even shouted at the screen. I didn’t see any protestors outside the theater after the show, but there were plenty of TV news reporters giving audience members a great outlet for their reactions.
This memorable film contains emotional footage can create strong feelings, especially a sequence where an Iraqi woman has an emotional breakdown and September 11th footage that begins with sounds while only viewing a black screen. Moore gives the audience some emotional breaks from the harrowing real life drama and constant barrage of elements by using songs for montages of important events and funny (in context) movie clips, including Dragnet and graphically altered Bonanza.
Editors including seasoned veteran Todd Woody Richman (Any Given Sunday) piece together the film well, beginning with interlaced shots of the political “players” getting ready for interviews and then unhooking their microphones at the end of the film. One key point –the audience assumes these interviews relate to 9/11 events, but there’s no verifying references or facts.
Moore accentuates the Bush business connection with the bin Laden family, but neglects to mention Osama’s estrangement from his family and his revoked Saudi citizenship because he smuggled weapons (he’s one of more than 50 of Mohammed bin Laden’s children). Sure there’s not much time to totally cover so many important issues within one hour and 52 minutes, but including more information and/or viewing more footage would put some segments into a more complete context.
Moore proudly defends presented facts and illustrates several points that support his own opinions while orienting the audience with several key elements including the Carlyle Group (he puts on the same playing field as Enron). He makes logical claims and comparisons, mostly through voice over narration, while the interviews with various people ranging from businessmen to soldiers fighting in Iraq have the most memorable impact. “People being told to sit and roll over at the same time,” says one subject when asked about the terror alerts, alleged scare tactics and public fear after 9/11. Moore presents both sides while assembling his pieces into a cohesive work overall….it’s up to the audience if they want to knock them down or not.
The progression of the plot builds on further investigation and evidence while sustaining an audience longer than the traditional film creating an steady, powerful pace (partially depending on the audience’s knowledge). Moore can’t get into the most secure places, so he naturally investigates the weakest for some memorable scenes. This film encourages audiences to delve below superficial façades and seek the true character of others…an achievable objective makes a documentary film one of the most effective venues of communication. Moore anticipates the opposition he causes and even includes scenes specifically meant to defuse his detractor’s statements as if he’s telling them “See, I don’t hate America.”
Moore’s role as a crusading protagonist becomes a less prominent when compared to his previous work, consequently improving himself as a filmmaker except for a shot of some badly pixilated archival footage. He even uses subtitles as a tool to fire back at a Patriot Act supporter. The most memorable dialogue in the ending footage that summarizing Moore’s objectives including a poignant overall view of war and the phrase “I thought I knew….I didn’t.” Here’s the bottom line – find out more (forgive the pun) and take action. This film inspired me to learn more about our country instead of only choosing a side and arguing with someone. Audience experiences will vary, but you might find yourself discovering your true opinions and feelings after this intelligent, but slighted political film.
Fahrenheit 9/11 comes recommended (*** out of four stars) and R for language and violent/disturbing images.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler