Written and Directed by Michael Moore
Running Time: 2:03
for some violent and
disturbing images, and for language.
Fahrenheit 9/11 was an engaging, if sometimes self-indulgent, documentary that offers some interesting insight into President George W. Bush and his mindset during his presidency.
The documentary starts with the contested presidential election in 2000, but mainly focuses in on events surrounding September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. There is information given about the connection between the Bush family and the Bin Laden family, about Bush and friends interests in oil in Iraq, and other interesting connections the Bush family has overseas. There is also a lot of footage dealing with the war in Iraq, and how it affects single families. Its main focus however is about the President and how in times of crisis, he seems to want to serve his own interests over the interests of the American people.
I admit to being a liberal in most aspects of life. I also freely admit to thinking that George Bush is a moron most of the time. He reminds me of a professor I had for contracts once. She knew what was in front of her, but if you asked her a question that wasn't in her notes, she would have no idea what you were talking about. That being said, I find books that bash the right rather interesting, and am a fan of people like Michael Moore and Al Franken; entertainers who enter the world of politics to make politics more entertaining. I have read Michael Moore's previous books, and so some of the information handed out in Fahrenheit 9/11 was stuff I had seen before; such as the fact that members of the Bin Laden family were escorted out of the country immediately after 9/11 without being interviewed by the F.B.I. or C.I.A. Moore does a good job in discussing the how, but never the why. He enjoys bashing the Bush administration over the fact they allowed this to happen, but never seems to attempt to find out if they have any explanation. It's possible he did ask and was never given an answer, but that is never shown anywhere.
Which leads me to the biggest problem I have with Michael Moore. He loves to spin information for his own purposes, and rarely likes to show the other side of an issue. He is, as times, full of himself, and feels that because he says something, it must be right, because he did a lot of research on it. And yes, since I agree with his positions most of the time, I find him to be engaging. But as I was watching the documentary, I sometimes felt as if he wasn't being fair to the other side. Had a Bill O'Reilly done the same kind of hatchet job on a Democrat, Moore would have been all over him for partisan politics, but Moore himself does the exact same thing. This is not to say that anything Moore showed was incorrect, but some of it may have been misleading or at a minimum, humorous for lack of anything else. Like when he showed the fact that after the second plane hit the trade towers, Bush sat in a Florida classroom for seven minutes. That is true, and video evidence backs that up. But then on top of it, Moore decides to show Bush's expressions in slow motion, to make him look more moronic, and he also uses voiceover to ask 'what was Bush thinking?'
On the whole, I did enjoy the documentary. The facts and connections Moore has rooted out are fascinating, and open the door to a lot of other questions, most of which he decides not to answer. He simply tells you what he knows, then lets you decide what to do with it. After about 75 minutes however, the documentary takes a turn from questioning the President, to showing the affects of his decisions. Namely, the price of war. There are some seriously disturbing war images that are shown, but there is also a very touching personal story of one woman who loses her son in Iraq. While the war footage at times got to be too much, as in too long, the personal story allowed the documentary to take on a whole new feel. Instead of just being angry at the President for his decision making, we get to see how those decisions can hurt actual people. Then towards the end, Moore gets back to ridiculing the President, ending on an outtake from a news conference where Bush butchers a familiar old saying.
After hearing that this documentary received a 20 minute standing ovation from the Cannes audience, I thought I'd be applauding at the end myself, but I didn't. Others in the sold-out audience did, but I felt like it was a good piece of filmmaking, but not a great piece of work. I didn't find it particularly incendiary or controversial, and a lot of the footage was public news footage that I'm surprised I didn't see when it first aired. Moore basically went through news archives and found the 'best' footage he could, and cobbled it together along with some other facts he managed to dig up. There were fewer interviews than in past Moore documentaries, and a lot less of his exposition. This time, he let the pictures tell the story.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed Fahrenheit 9/11, but didn't think it was all it's been made out to be. I can understand how it would break down along political lines, but you can't dispute the facts as they stand. You can dispute the way they are spun, and the way music and visuals are used to express points (my favorite being a few chords of Eric Clapton's song Cocaine while showing a Bush medical history file), but in the end, this is no more inflammatory than any story you might see on CNN or Fox News.