Anthony's Film Review
Bowling For Columbine (2002)
A stimulating documentary exploring whether the gun problem is part of something deeper...
In April 1999, I was almost done with my senior year of high school. On that tragic day that would forever haunt a Colorado high school, I was getting onto the school bus just like the end of any other school day. I was hearing the bus driver chat with another student about some crazy school shooting. I thought, "Gee. Another one." But only when I came home to watch the news on TV did I learn how awful this incident really was.
The Columbine High School massacre was the mother of all high school massacres. It was the event that provoked discussion about guns, violent video games, minors seeing R-rated movies, bullies in school, school security, and criminal psychology. It was a day that made us even more afraid. For me, I was scared that something like that could happen at my school just before graduation.
Three years later, Michael Moore's documentary Bowling For Columbine hits theaters and earns critical acclaim at film festivals. I like how the film isn't just a retelling of the events at that high school. It also doesn't tell the story of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and what could have possibly driven them into their suicidal mission. In fact, the film isn't even about Columbine. Only part of it is. The mentioning of the school's name in the film's title acts as a reference point for all of the remaining content. From this one tragedy, Michael Moore explores the issue of guns on a much deeper level.
The film actually begins in a bank. Not just any bank. A bank that actually gives new customers a free hunting rifle if they open an account with them. Moore does this to prove one thing: it is so easy to obtain a firearm if you look in the right places. It makes you wonder. Is it also just as easy to buy a weapon in a gun shop? And how good are their background checks? And it's not just guns that are easy to buy. What about bullets? In one of the best scenes in the film, Moore lets us know that K-Mart had sold bullets for a cheap price. For anyone who wants to kill some classmates, this is the ideal place to get some of the necessary equipment.
There's a saying that guns don't kill people. People kill people. Moore was probably thinking of this when he made this film. The majority of the film explores the characteristics of Americans that seem to make us more prone to getting a gun. As the tagline suggests, the question is whether America is full of people crazy for guns or people just crazy in general. He looks at statistics comparing gun-related crimes in different countries (although there is reason to consider some of the material to be fabricated), popularity of video games, and even TV shows like Cops. Moore's hypothesis about the gun problem is that it stems from fear that the media creates. He supports it with footage showing that houses in Canada are never locked, because they're not afraid as we are (supposedly).
This film is a good one, yet there were some things I didn't agree with entirely. Moore makes the point that in the vicinity of Columbine High School was the manufacturing plants for Lockheed-Martin, which makes ballistic missiles for defense. As far as I know, it's still just a coincidence. I didn't see the connection between that and the school shooting itself. Also, Moore goes as far as to try to talk to Dick Clark, simply because of a loose connection between a business he's involved with and someone else's death. Yes, poverty is a factor that can lead to gun violence, but is this going too far?
Putting this aside, Bowling for Columbine is made very well. It certainly makes one think and it doesn't really make one statement that the whole audience is supposed to follow. In the end, it presents more questions after exploring other questions. It's up to us to decide what's going on here. At least Michael Moore gives us a path to follow. Instead of looking at an issue at the surface, we have to go under it and get to the root of the problem. For me, I have come to this conclusion about America. We're not gun nuts. Maybe we are just completely nuts.
For more information about Bowling For Columbine, visit the Internet Movie Database.