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Driven by moral agitation, Mike Moore explores the culture of violence in an America traumatised by terrorism, teenage killers and economic inequality. Moore puts the hard questions to trigger-happy suburbanites and militia members, alongside the likes of National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston, shock rocker Marilyn Manson, South Park co-creator Matt Stone and surviving students of the Columbine High School shootings. 

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Have you ever wondered why so many American films find their resolution in the final shootout or fistfight? I have. Is this just lazy writing and filmmaking, or is American society incapable of any other negotiation than the blast of a gun? I often yearn for the films that I otherwise enjoy to find a better ending: to portray men who prove their superiority by their intelligence and humanity, their nobility and their willingness to live and let live. Shooting or bashing a baddie seems a little weak to me: is that the best you can do? Is that a fully evolved homo sapiens? 

So it is with that mindset that I sat through Bowling For Columbine, a documentary that is opinionated about its subject matter, interventionist in its approach and in your face with its style. I wish I’d made it. Americans live in a state of fear, Mike Moore posits, whether of death by muggings or death by muffins. Deeper still, he touches on the eternal wounds on the American heart that are the result of slavery and vicious discrimination. Guilt, fear, imbalance . . . everything that Moore finds rings a disconcertingly truthful bell in our innermost concept of American society. This is not a doco by a purist; he gets in there and shoves. He makes Wal-Mart agree to take handguns and ammo off its shelves, on prime time tv, for gorsakes. So never again imagine that films are always ‘just movies’. Bowling For Columbine sheds light on the darkest corner of America’s soul – and the man with the torch is the unlikely figure of a shuffling, bespectacled and overweight and underpaid filmmaker in baggy jeans.

His wardrobe doesn’t change much for the DVD, which offers a face to face – or rather face to camera spiel from Moore in a park, clutching the Oscar. He explains the Academy wouldn’t release the actual footage of his acceptance speech (nor anyone else’s) so he re-presents it, complete with the report of how it went down, with boos and applause all in a big noise. This unit, at over 15 minuets, is the best thing on the disc, but there are moments or gems in the other material, too.

There are two Mike Moore Q&A type stage events that have been taped, poorly, but the content is clear, albeit a little repetitious, one from Denver, and one on the Charlie Rose Show, which runs almost half an hour, plus a 21 minute interview of Mike by Bill Clinton’s Press Secretary Joe Lockhart at the US Comedy Arts Festival. 

Moore comes across as the political activist he is; and in his interview with Lockhart, when asked which he considers the bigger threat to Americans, French politicians or French cooking, Moore says he thinks what is “disgusting is that as the Democrats haven’t done their job, the French have become the new Democrats”.

Published November 13, 2003

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CAST: Interview subjects include Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson, South Park co-creator Matt Stone and surviving students of the Columbine High School shootings.

DIRECTOR: Michael Moore

SCRIPT: Michael Moore

OTHER: Special Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival 2002 (first documentary in 46 years to be selected for Competition)

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: Michael Moore’s short introduction; commentary by Moore’s production office receptionist and intern; Disc 2: Michael Moore on his Oscar win and acceptance speech; Moore returns to Denver/Littleton 6 mo ths later; Moore interviewed by Bill Clinton’s Press Secretary Joe Lockhart at the US Comedy Arts Festival; Moore on The Charlie Rose Show; Marilyn Manson video, Fight Song; Teacher’s Guide (DVD-ROM)


DVD RELEASE: November 11, 2003

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