Magazine article The Christian Century

The Heat Is On

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Heat Is On

Article excerpt

SINCE BURSTING onto the national scene in 1989 with his celebrated documentary Roger & Me, Michael Moore has gone from being that goofy overweight filmmaker in tennis shoes and a baseball cap to being the resolute voice of the common American. His battles with the powers-that-be have cast him as a modern-day Frank Capra. His biting attack style is reminiscent of satirists like Swift, Twain and Mencken.

Fahrenheit 9/11 has been at the center of controversy since its genesis. The controversy grew more heated when the film won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and Moore received a standing ovation from the mostly European audience. Moore does more in this film than address corporate insensitivity (as he did in Roger & Me) or assail the out-of-control American gun culture (Bowling for Columbine). He goes toe to toe with the president of the United States and his administration, brazenly suggesting that the Bush family's business dealings have had a direct impact on the president's foreign policy.

The film is laid out chronologically, beginning with a hilarious montage explaining how Bush "won" the state of Florida and thereby the 2000 presidential election. Moving to the White House, Moore portrays the president as village idiot, a man who is in so far over his head that his only recourse is to take vacation after vacation, leaving the day-to-day running of the office to the vice president. Bush was headed for a lameduck presidency, the film suggests, until September 11.

Moore handles that day with sensitivity and cinematic panache. He provides no dramatic shots of the attacking planes or burning buildings, only the sickening sounds, over black, of the towers being hit. He then fades up to reaction shots of people on the street below, including a few screaming about jumpers.

A fascinating transition takes place during those now famous minutes when Bush, reading to schoolchildren, first learns of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. (He already knew about the first plane, we discover.) Bush sat there, stone-faced, for over seven minutes while his aides silently urged him to do something, anything. This curious fact provides a prime opening for Moore to imply that what Bush was thinking about in those minutes was his family's unholy business alliance with the wealthy bin Laden family, who may not have been as distant from Osama as had been reported. …

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