Michael Moore's self-confessed Presidential election campaign anti-Bush propaganda documentary about America in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, proposing that the Bush administration has used the tragic events to push its own agendas. It recalls the controversy around Bush's narrow election victory, calls the response to 9/11 inept, and the preparedness week. The film also offers dramatic Iraq war footage, grieving relatives and theorises about conspiracies that may link Bush to business deals as well as to major Arab investors in the US.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There's never been a more strident (or risible) propagandist film than Fahrenheit 9/11. Nothing that the great propagandist Josephs - Goebbels and Stalin - produced comes close. And the reason is that Michael Moore shamelessly uses other people's footage of the destruction of war and the trauma of conflict to press all our buttons, relevant or not. Wreckage, bloodied babies, dead bodies and the frightful images of bombs and explosions are the elements that trigger our emotive responses to this film, not Moore's sarcasm or innuendo. Certainly not his journalism. He engineers our emotional responses by association - irrespective of its relevance to his story. It's clever but it's deeply dishonest.
Both his journalistic credentials and his filmmaking prowess (which he showed to better effect with Bowling for Columbine) are under-represented here. The former is wanting in every department, from story telling style to factual presentation. Often his accusations go nowhere. He spends much energy on linking President Bush to the bin Laden family living in the US. Hasn't Osama bin Laden been profoundly estranged from his family for years? No mention. No question. But this is just one supposed fact-sheet that leads nowhere. Much of his creaky research on the Arab investments in the US reeks of anti-Arab prejudice, both in content and certainly ion coverage.
If he were filing this as a news feature and I were his editor, he'd be in deep poo.
He insults our intelligence when he presents a jumbled mess of facts, factoids and fury as a story, linked by manipulative and contrived editing. The latter (his filmmaking skill) is absent in a film that surrenders all genuine creative decisions to the smirking self indulgence worthy of an undergraduate.
Perhaps our credulity is diluted after discovering that even Bowling for Columbine erred with the over-creative approach to presenting contrived scenes as real events, such as the one in the bank where they "hand out guns". When that was blown away as a falsified reality, I lost a great deal of respect for the guy. When I learnt that he continually misrepresents himself (he isn't a kid from the wrong side of Flint), it further diminished his credentials.
In Fahrenheit 9/11 he manipulates his country's raw emotions to score cheap political or caricaturing points and calls it filmmaking. The fact that Quentin Tarantino's jury awarded this the Palme d'Or at Cannes (2004) is a tragic emphasis on the film's main achievement: it relies for its emotional bang on the pain of America's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's a pretty despicable election pamphlet.
One of the film's low points is the collage ridiculing countries in the Coalition of the Willing. He smirks at Iceland and Romania (represented by a still of a vampire) and singles these out along with Afghanistan, but no mention of the 40 or so others including Australia, Britain, Spain, Poland, etc.
The one element of filmmaking Moore has down to a fine art is the art of juxtaposition: this is one of the keys to effective filmmaking, and he instinctively knows that he can present us his version of any truth by simply putting the images in the 'right' order. In this case, the 'left' order. But I've always thought that if birds were either left winged or right winged, they would forever fly around in circles. Same thing in politics.
Review by Louise Keller:
Irrespective of your political views, Michael Moore's opinionated and highly controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 is mandatory viewing. Provocative, hilarious, distressing and thought provoking, the film is skilful in presenting its image of the world in crisis. Its failing is its impartiality, often thumping his audience with the philosophy that 'Moore is more'. But even if the film's balance is out of kilter, as a work it is fascinating, informative and entertaining.
Just as he did in the superb Bowling for Columbine (a far better film), Moore grabs our attention from the start, and carefully guides our emotional journey though a set of highs and lows. The script is intelligent, albeit biased, with great use of wit, while adept editing keeps the pace snappy. Irreverent humour and sarcasm are juxtapositioned with terror and violence. A potent mix.
The fuzzy images inter-cut from documentary news footage do not detract. If anything they add to the immediacy and volatile nature of the content. Music is a powerful tool and taps straight into our emotional sensors: from the incessant tension-building, rhythmic variation on dissonant intervals to 'the ultimate rush' songs selected for motivation by combatant soldiers ('Burn mother-fucker, burn').
Exploding like the fireworks at the beginning of the film on the night of the US 2000 election, Moore uses his craft like a weapon of mass destruction, as he makes his character assassination of President George W. Bush, the self-acclaimed 'War President'. The facts presented are devastating enough, needing no extra embellishment, as we learn of the President's family connections to the Saudi Royal and Bin Laden families. The context is set as we watch a blackened screen and only hear scenes from the events of September 11, 2001. We can only too well sense and relive the sensations of terror and devastation. Moore's accent and wrath is on George W. Bush, as we watch him reading to an elementary class in slow motion, after having been told of the events. The book is My Pet Goat, and Moore's sarcasm is unapologetic.
There are graphic scenes of violence, including a public beheading and images of injured Iraqi children and dying soldiers. While many of the images have validity in the context, some are overdone, and the lengthy (and often heartbreaking) sequence involving the woman from Flint Michigan, whose son was killed in combat in Iraq, reek of contrivance. Watching Moore stop members of congress in the streets, asking them to commit their children to enlist, appears to be a cheap trick.
While the mercury levels for Fahrenheit 9/11 may rest in the United States, the relevance of this film is universal, as we are made piercingly aware of the staggering power held not only by politicians in high places, but also by that of the media.
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FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (M)
PRODUCER: Jim Czarnecki, Michael Moore
DIRECTOR: Michael Moore
SCRIPT: Michael Moore
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Desjarlais (Kirsten Johnson, William Rexer)
EDITOR: Kurt Engfehr, T. Woody Richman
MUSIC: Jeff Gibbs
PRODUCTION DESIGN: N/A
RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 29, 2004