Film Review: Bowling for Columbine (2002)

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});


Despite the immense popularity of documentaries on Netflix and similar streaming services, today it is difficult to imagine film maker to achieve celebrity status by specialising in that very genre. One of the very few people who achieved that status and who could arguably be called the most celebrated documentary film maker of 21st Century is Michael Moore. However, this status was achieved more than two decades, in very specific political circumstances, when the theme of his films and views he expressed almost perfectly resonated with the sentiments of his targetted audience. Two years before he would triumph and unprecedented earn half an hour of standing ovation with Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore achieved another triumph with his Oscar-awarded international box office hit Bowling for Columbine.

The film is titled after Columbine High School Massacre, an event that took place in Denver suburb of Columbine on April 20th 1999, during which two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, fatally shot twelve students and a teacher before killing themselves. The massacre shocked American public and created intense debates about its causes and the way to prevent similar occurrences in the future. The debate revealed sharp ideological division in American society – right-wing conservatives blamed violence and similar harmful content in films, video games and popular culture; left-wing liberals blamed easy access to firearms due to Second Amendment of US Constitution that makes possession of such weapons constitutional right. Michael Moore, known for being one of being quite outspoken leftist even for Hollywood standards, clearly and predictably supports the latter. Yet, his view is actually more nuanced than merely demanding complete ban on possession of guns or at least stricter gun control. He explores American gun culture, often through its bizarre and grotesque forms like blind people using guns or getting them as gift if they open account in cretain banks. Bowling for Columbine also explores aftermath of its culture through series of widely-publicised violent and deadly incidents in past decades and cites damning statistics about USA having homicide rate exponentially higher than other developed countries. Moore, however, suggests that guns and their easy availability aren’t the sole cause of the phenomena and that it also has to do with culture of fear which was ingrained in American society, namely whites, as the indirect consequence of centuries of violence and oppression directed against other racial and ethnic groups. Moore also connected high school shootings and similar violent incidents with the institutional violence by US government through numerous wars, “humanitarian bombings” and similar activities supported by increasingly powerful military-industrial complex. Like in all of his documentaries, Moore paints this picture through combination of stock footage, interviews with various public figures and ordinary people, semi-humorous publicity stunts and his own narration and commentary.

To say that Moore found willing audience for his claims would have been an understatement. That audience included nearly half of American society, including more urban, educated, liberal and “hip” people who liked to think of themselves as smarter, more moral and superior to rural, undereducated hicks that tended to vote for Republicans. Furthermore, by concentrating on culture war issue of gun control instead of criticising capitalism and praising labour unions, like he had done in his celebrated feature debut Roger & Me, Moore could expect the support of Hollywood and cultural establishment which had less understanding for him during Clinton years. Moore had even more willing audience in Europe, where people, especially after arrival of George W. Bush into White House, suddenly began to see themselves and their countries more enlightened and prosperous than primitive and barbarous America.

Bowling for Columbine was praised by overwhelming majority of critics and often cited as masterpiece of documentary genre, with its influence reflecting in numerous politically charged documentaries that would be produced at the eve of 2004 presidential election. The film, however, had some detractors, mostly those who complained about Moore’s cavalier attitude towards facts, often enhanced to suggestive editing many saw as deception. Moore’s treatment of Charlton Heston, president of NRA, later became source of controversy when it was revealed that the former Hollywood icon had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease during interviews. Matt Stone, one of creators of South Park, also complained about his interview and other details of the film being taken out of the context and later retaliated by openly mocking Moore in 2004 film Team America: World Police. However, regardless of what someone’s views on the gun issue might be, few could say that Michael Moore lacked passion and talent necessary and that his film wasn’t important contribution to the debate. Moore, with exception of Fahrenheit 9/11, failed to make films with similar impact, but it had more to do with changing economic, political and cultural circumstances and less than with Moore himself.

RATING: 6/10 (++)


Blog in Croatian
Blog in English
InLeo blog

Unstoppable Domains:
Hiveonboard: y
Bitcoin Lightning HIVE donations:
Rising Star game:

BTC donations: 1EWxiMiP6iiG9rger3NuUSd6HByaxQWafG
ETH donations: 0xB305F144323b99e6f8b1d66f5D7DE78B498C32A7

Posted using CineTV

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});