Anthony's Film Review

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

A very organized and convincing presentation despite being marred by intense bias...

Let's review the meaning of a particular word that may or may not apply to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11: documentary. I actually looked online for the definition of the word. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the meaning has two parts. First, a documentary is based on documents. That's fine, because Fahrenheit 9/11 presents a variety of video clips, photos, and written documents. Second, a documentary presents the information in a factual manner without inserting fictional material. That's where the film has a problem. You can't help but feel that some of it doesn't seem right. The whole thing seems unfair and unbalanced.

There's another word, however, that definitely fits this movie: propaganda. From the same online dictionary, the definition states that propaganda is material that is distributed by proponents or opponents of something. Michael Moore made this movie for one reason: to sway the voting public into not reelecting George W. Bush for a second term in 2004. I'm saying this a little more than a year after seeing the movie on its second night in theaters, so I can see all of that effort was for nothing. Looking back on the night I saw the movie, I felt an anxious curiosity about the 2004 presidential election. Perhaps Moore could actually succeed in getting John Kerry into office instead of Bush.

But let's talk about the film itself. Putting aside the bias, I like the whole presentation itself. It starts out nicely with footage of Al Gore winning the 2000 presidential election, and a voice-over of Michael Moore asks us whether things would be different if Gore had REALLY won the election. Then the opening credits with footage of some White House officials having makeup applied before a live broadcast. After that, a blank screen for over a minute. Nothing but the sounds of screaming, crying, and general panic on September 11, 2001 when commercial planes were flown into the World Trade Center. It really sets the tone for the rest of the film.

There is a variety of material presented, all directly or indirectly related to the Bush administration. One segment talks about business relations between the Bush family and the bin Laden family. Another segment talks about how the Patriot Act may go too far in airport security (e.g., a female passenger gets stopped by airport security because of a bottle of milk) and even questions the lack of security with footage of an area of the coastal U.S. that has only one person acting as law enforcement. Another interesting segment, though I question its source, is about Bush's lack of National Guard duty. It regards a document that was seen on TV with a name blacked out, which Moore supposedly has a copy of without the name blacked out. From that, he forms a theory.

The part of the film that hits hard the most is about the war in Iraq. Forget what you have seen on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, or whatever source you consult. This film has footage of how bad war really is. There are clips of soldiers' corpses being burned and hanged as well as young soldiers, probably at the minimum age for serving in the U.S. Army, talking about how depressing it all is. Their feelings probably explain why they don't mind insulting an Iraqi man who is tied up. And to top it all off, a woman in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan, cries her heart out and lashes out at Washington for sending her son to die in the Middle East.

So yes, it's all an effort to discredit Bush and sway the voters to support the left, not the right. This intention is also evident by the clips of Bush in the film. Moore takes clips of Bush stuttering or sounding stupid and throws it all into this film. He also takes some Bush footage out of context, like a video of Bush playing golf to make it look as if he's lazy.

On the other hand, I don't mind anti-Bush material that is humorous. I like the Magnificent Seven spoof with the faces of Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair on cowboys. I also laughed out loud when a government official mentioned a toll-free number to contact him, but we see subtitles that tell us his real phone number. That and Moore riding an ice cream truck by the Capitol Building while reading the Patriot Act through a bullhorn.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is no doubt a good film at least in terms of the ability to engage the audience. As a fair look at a topic, it's not. I remember the audience cringing at clips of the idiotic Bush plus other scenes. I also remember someone waiting outside the theater with flyers to attend a discussion event with Michael Moore. I didn't care about that, because I don't really have a firm political stance even though I do have opinions. I can say, however, that most people will be on one side or the other. Those already conservative or liberal will stay there, and those in the middle or undecided will likely be swayed towards the left.

Whether you want to call it a pseudo-documentary, a propagandistic documentary, or a nondocumentary is up to you. In any event, my rating for this film that could have been ten stars will be deducted a point for telling us how to think. Still, this is a film that helps us question not just the state of the U.S. government but the world at large.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Fahrenheit 9/11, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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