Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Fahrenheit 9/11

Film #271

THE PLOT

Michael Moore’s view on what happened to the United States after September 11; and how the Bush Administration allegedly used the tragic event to push forward its agenda for unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Year 1, Day 270

BEFORE: Michael Moore is one of the most famous documentarians around today having made such films as Bowling for Columbine and Capitalism: A Love Story. Today, I’ll be watching perhaps his most popular documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore is an interesting filmmaker, at least to me. I’ve seen a handful of his work before and am impressed with how entertaining he makes the subject matter. However, more so than An Inconvenient Truth, I’m guaranteeing there will be misleading information in Fahrenheit 9/11. So much so that tomorrow’s film, Fahrenhype 9/11 will be deconstructing how false Moore’s “documentary” is. But I saw yesterday, it can be heavily biased and opinionated (against my own views) and I’ll still enjoy it, so let’s see how Fahrenheit 9/11 fares.

AFTER: Here we have another interesting entry in the documentary genre. Unlike An Inconvenient Truth where there was a single area for complaints (the structure), Fahrenheit 9/11 had more general and wide-reaching complaints. It wasn’t poorly done, just off the mark in many places, both content and structure wise.

I think going into these documentaries, I was expecting to take points off for the extreme bias and manipulation. My thoughts were a documentary should be more based in fact than opinion, but I soon realized this isn’t/shouldn’t be the case. Moore’s documentaries are a good example of how the medium can be used as a way to raise awareness to an issue or present a passionate argument for or against a topic. In fact these strongly biased viewpoints may even be better because it gives you a clear look at one side of an issue - then it’s up to the viewer to realize this, research the other side, and make their own decisions as to what’s right. All this being said, how does Fahrenheit 9/11 fare? Well it is very obviously anti-Bush and anti-Iraqi War and presents many “facts” and archival footage as supporting evidence. But Moore does a good job at convincing you, mainly through his organization of clips and juxtaposition with music.

But the content is closely tied with the structure and that has more than it’s fair share of problems. As is typical for Moore, he places a large focus on himself and personal stories, with the big one being from his hometown Flint, Michigan. The strength of Fahrenheit 9/11 is in the archival footage and Moore drawing connections from it. But a large part of the film is focused on numerous people and how their lives have been affected post 9/11. Sounds like it fitting but I don’t think it is. It’s not because of the stories themselves - most were quite moving - but they didn’t add to the rest of the supporting evidence. On the one hand, Moore uses quotes, documents, and other hard “facts” to build a solid case but on the other, you have personal stories which are only slightly related to the main argument. Prime example being the people from Flint, Michigan. The bigger point with these people is about unemployment and recruitment for the military; not about the Bush/Saudi Arabia connection.

Focus is all over the place. Moore makes some good, and apparently, well-supported arguments in Fahrenheit 9/11, but at times it’s just too far-fetched. Validity of Moore’s arguments aside (which I’ll see an opposing view tomorrow), the documentary starts off concise but takes on too much as it progresses. It’s a very influential documentary winning the Palme d’Or, but I wouldn’t consider it Moore’s best nor an all-around best documentary.

RATING: 3 out of 5