21 July 2004 | djs8994
Dude, where's the argument?
There is no need to have an objective point of view when making films, least of all documentaries. Most pieces of art have an element of personal opinion located within them, mostly discreet so that anyone of whatever opinion can be affected by it. However, when your point of view is so obvious, it's hard to convince anyone of your case if they are so conscious of your efforts to change their opinion. Having glanced at his books and seen three of his films, I think Michael Moore ought to take this advice seriously.
The first scenes of the film offer the audience a change to play a what if game. What if Al Gore had won Florida and become president? From the way Moore's editing suite puts it, Gore won the election by a mile, the use of clips every time gore wins a state making it look like a cakewalk, until Rupert Murdoch makes sure that he overturns the will of the American people. Well Bush won in a, I think its fair to say dubious fashion, but you'd think the results of the 2000 election would have nothing to do with a film which from the title you would have thought would be about terrorism. It is perhaps a sneaky way of blaming bush in someway for 9/11. 'Would the event of the past 4 years been completely different?' asks Moore. I think most people would acknowledge that 9/11 would have happened anyway; as I don't think those thoughtful souls over at Al queda had a personal preference.
But Wait, there's something fishy about the Bush family and the Saudis. The dark secrets in question are that the business dealings of the Bush family are somehow linked to the Bin Laden family. Well mystery solved: its all a big conspiracy. However Moore is at pains to point out that the only significant bin laden hasn't had contact with the family for years. Which leaves a 30-minute section of the film on a hiding to nothing, just a few rumours of shady dealings between business elites. It was at this point I could hear the crashes and explosions of Spiderman 2, playing at the screen next door, about the time when Moore was making some halfhearted effort to link Bush with Enron again. Yawn. I also found it interesting that Moore included footage from a public beheading in Saudi Arabia. For no other reason than to shock the audience, much in the same way long distance truck drivers use caffeine tablets to keep them alert through the long dull roads.
Then comes the War, which really gives Michael the chance to play around with editing techniques. First of all did you know that only tiny banana republics gave support to the war in Iraq? The mockery of these countries in a section headlined 'the coalition of the willing' makes no mention of the 60,000 British troops sent to Iraq, nor does he mention the dozens who have died. They didn't exist. They were never there. Which should come as a relief to their families. Having watched some US news coverage of the war, I would guess that maybe 20% of the viewers knew this, which means that most of the audience of this film would have completely believed this point.
Most of Fahrenheit 911 is desperately trying to prove a point. But I'm not sure what that is. That people get killed in wars? That rich, powerful people have international connections? That people who join up to the army are mostly poor? A silly section of the film concerns Moore's efforts to 'get members of congress to sign their kids up for the army'. Don't people usually volunteer? It turns out in fact that the rate of membership for the children of members of congress in the army is higher than average. Not that Moore mentions this of course.
Like in any comedy film there are likely to be some moments of fun, and to be fair there are enough laughs to enjoy oneself. My favourites are the Taliban official who tells a female reporter he feels sorry for her husband, and the wacky inventor of a skyscraper parachute.
It is virtually impossible to criticise this film without being accused of being a supporter of Bush of the Iraq war. But I wouldn't consider myself a strong supporter of either, and a film of half accusations and obviously heavily edited film material, is not going to convince anybody of your case either.
The film ends with a quote from George Orwell, on how the state manipulates the media and pursues a war with its own people as well as those overseas. However those familiar with the quote will be aware that it is from the totalitarian world of 1984. But the way Moore uses the quote you would think it was a comment on the current US administration. There is something troubling about the use of this quote, namely that it refers to a world where there is constant war between 3 identical totalitarian governments. It Moore suggesting that there is no difference between life in America and life in a Taliban ruled Afghanistan? No difference between the tactics of Al queda and the US government?
I liked Roger and Me, and Bowling for Columbine, but I'm sorry Mike, having read your frankly appalling, amateurish books, and seen this film, I'm afraid, like the song you desperately wanted to put over the credits at the end, I won't get fooled again.