FAHRENHEIT 9/11 SPECIAL EDITION: DVD
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:
If you are reading this in frustration, having already purchased a copy of Fahrenheit 9/11 when it came out in December 2004 (a month or so before this Special Edition is released), and to see if you should go and buy this two disc set, I can only say: it depends. On whether you are interested in the film or you would like to absorb all the additional material that Michael Moore has amassed to beef up an already beefy doco. The one compelling extra on this second disc is the Arab comedians segment, showing how being an Arab in America after 9/11 impacted on their lives and their material.
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 bangl 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.
Or am I jumping to wrong conclusions about this film. As you'll see on the first featurette on Disc 2, Michael Moore told Cannes Jury President Quentin Tarantino that if he wanted to make political statements he'd go into politics; "I want to make movies." This was in response to Tarantino assuring Moore that the Jury awarded the Palme d'Or to F9/11 not for its politics but because "it's the best film we saw."
It is hard to take either Tarantino's or Moore's statement at face value; that argument aside, it's a pleasure to have this Special Edition to wade through and find these jewels of trivia recorded like this. It's a bit padded, but the waffle is worth it for the insight into how people reacted to the film.
In the Iraq pre-invasion featurette (the film's producers shooting videos in Iraq prior to the invasion) the happy, comfortable shoppers, children playing and smiling, all attest to the wonderful life under Saddam Hussein. No-one has any fears, everyone is happy. Nothing is wrong, say the people in the streets. Others tell of American planes bombing them in 1998. None of this put into any sort of context, but the editing implies connections that 'prove' statements made by the filmmakers.
Urban Hammid's 18 minute account of his experiences is the longest extra; he recounts how badly the detainees were treated by the American soldiers, and details a raid he witnessed with Charlie Company in Samarra. He also suggests that mainstream media exercised self censorship because they weren't interested in his stories.
The Bush Rose Garden piece is a replay of footage recorded after President Bush and Dick Cheney met with the 9/11 committee, and Condi 9/11 replays Condoleezza Rice's testimony.
But, as I say at the start, for light(er) relief, play the 10 minute Arab comedians extra, which shows how the aftermath of 9/11 fed Arab American stand up comics their darkest (and perhaps funniest) material. "Hi, welcome to the Axis of Evil Tour..." begins Ahmed Ahmed (real name). In using comedy to confront reality (and distance himself from the stereotype Arab terrorist) he jokes about the unjokable. "After 9/11," he says, "the hate crimes against Arabs in the United States increased 1000%. But we're still number four after blacks, gays and jews......" and after a pause, he quips, "So what do we have to do!"
Published December 16, 2004
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FAHRENHEIT 9/11 SPECIAL EDITION: DVD (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
PRESENTATION: Widescreen 16:9
SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: none; Disc 2: comments on the film from filmmakers, including Cannes Jury; Iraq pre-invasion; Abu Ghraib prisoners release; Swedish journalist Urban Hammid's accounts; Bush Rose Garden - his report on meeting the 9/11 Commission; Condi 9/11 (Condoleezza Rice) at the 9/11 Commission; home video of Lila Lipscombe' s remarks after seeing F9/11; Corporal Abdul Henderson recalls; Arab comedians in the aftermath; Miami Patrol
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: MGM Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: February 16, 2005