Fahrenheit 911

dir. Moore
Opens Fri June 25
Various Theaters

Want to go for a ride? It's a roller coaster/house of horrors that spans the past four years of American politics. Buckle up! Fahrenheit 9/11 begins with George W. Bush's ascension to the presidency and drops you right back into the present quagmire. Given the controversy this film received pre-release, it is already somewhat successful.

If, as many claim (often without having seen it), this film is nothing more than manipulative propaganda, then why has there been such an effort to prevent its availability via groups like Move America Forward and a ridiculously undeserved "R" rating? Besides, considering the widespread disappointment the American population has experienced at the hands of its mass media outlets, propaganda doesn't seem like an inappropriate weapon. So fuck you, conservatives. You get Fox News pumped into homes of citizens every day; let the hippie pinkos get to have this one mainstream documentary--one which will likely turn most of its profit by preaching to the already-converted, anyhow.

Long before Fahrenheit was a twinkle in Michael Moore's eye, even liberals criticized his filmmaking, calling it self-serving and unabashedly biased. However, Moore shows remarkable restraint here, for the most part grounding the film in relevant footage (no help from South Park) and statements of fact. He still plays the medium like an organ, craftily editing the shots to mirror his train of thought, but the amount of time dedicated to the political stunts he pulls for the sake of the camera clocks in at less than 10 minutes total. He even waits until the second half of the film before bringing it back to Flint, Michigan.

Although flawed, this film's public release is a victory. After all, it is the only major motion picture to explicitly criticize the Bush Administration and its actions in Iraq. People who have never been to indymedia.com or eaten a leaf of organic lettuce will be confronted with explicitly anti-war material in their neighborhood Blockbuster. So fuck you again, liberal haters. Perhaps Moore makes some iffy choices as a documentarian, but maybe if we showed a little more support for our own we could get it together and run the country--just like the conservatives do.

If you are already convinced that the president is a dumb, irresponsible, spoiled, selfish ass, and you've been reading up on current events, most of what Fahrenheit has to offer is a synopsis. However, highlights include coverage of airplanes commissioned to fly members of the bin Laden family out of the U.S. directly after 9/11 (without having to undergo questioning), and the painful revisit to the Florida polls from which the film jumps off.

The discrete treatment of the attack on the Twin Towers is somewhat surprising, considering Moore's weak spot for tear-jerking shock value. Instead, he saves the gore for the civilian victims in Iraq and wounded American soldiers. Later, he gets a cheap shot in by shadowing a patriotic mother torn with grief over her son's death in combat. Also surprising is Moore's treatment of Bush. Sure he's demonized, but Moore keeps a relatively straight face, only picking on the president's mental woes three or four times. Instead, he focuses on the less giggly reality of his decisions as a self-proclaimed "war president."

It's a strange experience to watch a film address an issue that remains unresolved and surrounds us on all sides. Usually such productions are held up until they can be treated with the neatness of hindsight. Though this may help degrade the objectivity of the film, it also encourages debate at a time when it still has the opportunity to be productive.