One thing I’m amazed at is that during both of the Politic-a-thons, I haven’t talked about any political themed documentaries. Some of the best politically themed films to have come out in recent years have been documentaries, from The Fog of War focusing on Robert McNamara to Five Broken Cameras about the oppression of Palestinians under Israel (which is really noteworthy considering what’s happening in Gaza now) to The Act of Killing focusing on the genocide in Indonesia. But I think that for my first documentary to cover on Politic-a-thon, it has to be one which was generally agreed to have been a major player in an election and helped turn the wave of public opinion against a President before his first term was up, that film being Fahrenheit 9/11.
The films of Michael Moore have always been of interest to me. Despite all the grandstanding and his very simplistic style, a lot of the things that Moore says in his films I agree with. Bowling for Columbine, Sicko and Capitalism: A Love Story are amongst my favourite documentaries, and I may cover them in future Politic-a-thons, but none of them has had the same impact that Fahrenheit 9/11 has had. It was such an influential film that in meetings between senior members of the Republican party in 2004, just before the election, they said that if Bush lost the election then this film would be one of the key factors why. The question is, does the film still have the same impact now, with the benefit of hindsight, as it did back in 2004 and I think it does.
The film focuses on the policies enacted by the Bush government from 9/11 onwards, with the main focus being on the war in Iraq and the belief that the reason for going to war given to the public, that of Sadaam Hussein stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, was a fake and the real reason why the US went in was for the oil and for profit. The film also shows the impact that the war has had on the ordinary people of America and how the lower classes are the ones who disproportionately see the harm caused by war, with these people being the ones to sign up first meaning that the upper classes don’t need to. Right from the offset, the film posits that the entire Bush presidency was illegal, going back to the 2000 election and the widely accepted belief that the election should have been won by Al Gore but the results in Florida were rigged in favour of Bush (something which I think happened). This, along with the fact that when members of the public (who were overwhelmingly black) tried to contest the results in the Senate, not even one senator agreed to support them, shows the belief that Moore has that the Bush administration and the whole Washington system doesn’t care about the will of the public and the will of the black population in particular, their focus is on the rich. Throughout the film, more and more things are brought up to illustrate this point and showing that the people in power don’t really take what is going on seriously, including a clip of someone goofing around before announcing the war in Iraq being shown. Probably the most horrifying example of this can be seen through the fact that no-one in Congress read the Patriot Act before they voted on it, meaning that the increased invasion of privacy was approved, without anyone who voted on it knowing what they were voting on with the film showing the danger that this act has brought, with any group or person who was critical of Bush and against the Iraq war being spied on. There are a few parts of the film where I think Moore went a bit too over the top with his grandstanding, mainly when he goes up to the Capitol to try and get Congressmen and Congresswomen to get their children to enlist in the army and when he reads the Patriot Act to the public from an ice-cream truck, but the overall points that Moore makes about how what the Bush administration did in regards to Iraq was illegal, and the incredibly powerful and disturbing videos that Moore shows about what happened behind closed doors is done brilliantly.
Overall, Fahrenheit 9/11 does still hold up and the impact of the film still shines through. Due to many of the things that happened in regards to Iraq being shown as true, along with the conversations between Blair and Bush regarding Iraq being censored before they get released to the public indicating that there is still a cover-up going on meaning that we will never get the full details of what happened about the Iraq war, at least not in our lifetimes. Sure some of the grandstanding doesn’t work but the overall truth that Moore presents through the film more than makes up for it and the fact that so many people saw this film does give me hope for America in the future, at least until the next Republican is elected President.
My Rating: 4/5