Explaining the motivation for his film, Michael Moore told the NY Times, "It's my personal aim that Bush is removed from the White House". The film's release to theaters (Jun. 25) and video/DVD sales (Oct. 5) were timed to come out before the election (Nov. 2) to influence voters.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is an irreverent, viciously funny and in places incendiary movie that, along with everything else, is an extraordinary collage of ordinary American voices: soldiers in the field, an Oregon state trooper patrolling the border, and, above all, citizens of Flint, Michigan, Mr. Moore's hometown.
Lila Lipscomb, from Flint, wears a crucifix pendant and an American flag lapel pin, mother of a mixed racial family, and is proud of her children's military service. She reads a letter from her son, written days before he was killed in Iraq. It urges his family to work for Bush's defeat. Mr. Bush is under no obligation to answer Mr. Moore's charges, but he will have to answer to Mrs. Lipscomb.
Moore touches on subjects such as:
- the Florida election fiasco that was not decided by the voters
- the Patriot Act that was not read by Congressmen who voted on it
- gruesome film footage of war in Iraq not shown on US TV
- Bush's AWOL service record
- recruiting of poor and minorities by the army
- lack of military service by Congressmen's children
- $1.4 billion in Saudi money flowed into Bush family enterprises
- implies that the expedited flights out of the US for the Bin Laden family after 9/11 were authorized by President Bush because he was beholden to the Saudis
- 42% of Bush's first eight months as president was on vacation
- A final quotation from Orwell's 1984 is used to suggest that the Iraq war is part of a wider and inherently unfinishable global war whose real purpose is to keep power in the hands of America's economic elite.
Craig Unger's book, HOUSE OF BUSH, HOUSE OF SAUD: The Hidden Relationship Between The World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties, inspired part of the film.
While Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 will be properly debated on the basis of its factual claims and cinematic techniques, it should first of all be appreciated as a high-spirited and unruly exercise in democratic self-expression. Mixing sober outrage with mischievous humor and blithely trampling the boundary between documentary and demagoguery, Mr. Moore takes wholesale aim at the unparalleled arrogance, mendacity and incompetence of the Bush administration.
Mr. Moore is often impolite, rarely subtle and occasionally unwise. He can be obnoxious, tendentious and maddeningly self-contradictory. He can drive even his most ardent admirers crazy. He is a credit to the republic.
Through it all, Mr. Moore provides sardonic commentary, to which the soundtrack adds nudges and winks. As the camera pans across copies of Mr. Bush's records from the Texas Air National Guard, and Mr. Moore reads that the future president was suspended for missing a medical examination, we hear a familiar electric guitar riff; it takes you a moment to remember that it comes from a song called ''Cocaine.''
Controversy surrounding the film has increased its publicity. A clumsy attempt was made by a group calling itself Move America Forward to pressure theaters into not showing the film. Another attempt was made by a group, Citizens United, to block the film's television ads. Theaters on military bases have avoided showing it. The film's rating, PG-13 or R, was in question. An anti-Moore group, MooreWatch, posted a web link to freely download the movie and thus rob Moore of profits, yet Moore had no problem with people downloading and sharing the movie, so passionately does he wish for things to change.
Sobered by attacks on the factual accuracy of elements of his previous film, "Bowling for Columbine", Moore, taking no chances, hired a veritable army of fact-checkers. Fahrenheit 9/11, which won the Palm d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival after receiving a 20-plus minute standing ovation, was also the highest-grossing documentary ever in its first weekend, bringing in $21.8 million. The film opened to sold out crowds, some lined up for blocks after midnight. Theaters in the Deep South and the Midwest set house records for any film they'd ever shown. Yes, it even sold out in Peoria. And Lubbock, Texas. And Anchorage, Alaska!
The phenomenal opening represented a decisive victory for Mr. Moore and for the Miramax movie executives Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who released the film independently through distributors Lions Gate and IFC Films, after it was rejected by Miramax's corporate parent, the Walt Disney Company, as too political.
Opening a week after the death of former president Ronald Reagan, the film's sympathizers feel that they're entitled to some lefty exuberance after biting their tongues through a week of Republican mythmaking Gippermania. Their Bush-loathing is so intense there is a pent-up longing for excess, a desire to be swept with emotions the cautious Democratic nominee can't arouse. They were so jazzed by Moore's ripsnorting assault, the discussion on the sidewalk afterward was about just one thing: Will it help with the swing vote?
While Moore is a controversial figure, the Rush Limbaugh of the left, not above a cheap shot, he is not guilty of untruth. What he is guilty of is outrageous success. Moore's fault is to take a marginal political view and make it sizzle. He makes current events much more entertaining than most journalists could. Moore illustrates the charges in the film with dramatic images and a relentless commentary track that essentially concludes Bush is incompetent and dishonest.
It is worth seeing, debating and thinking about, regardless of your political allegiances.
Michael Moore, George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb