Culture: Under the Gun; Mike Davies Goes Bowling with Michael Moore and, below, He Reviews His New Documentary Film
Byline: Mike Davies
In his first documentary feature, Roger & Me, Michael Moore took on General Motors over their plans to close down their plant in his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
In The Big One he stuck it to corporate America. For his latest, Bowling For Columbine, he sets his sights even wider. Spurred by the shootings at Columbine High School, Moore set about examining nothing less than the American thirst for violence and its use as a means to an end.
'I've been thinking about this since I was a kid. You can't help but think about it if you grew up in the United States. I have clear memories of sitting on the living-room floor on Sunday, November 25, 1963, at around two in the afternoon. My mother is vacuuming the carpet and I'm sitting on the floor close to the TV so that I can hear it.
'They're bringing Lee Harvey Oswald into the garage in Dallas, when Jack Ruby steps forward, puts the gun in his ribs and shoots him live on TV. That's the first one I witnessed.
'Then I remember walking out of Mass on Holy Thursday on April 4 1968. One of the dads had gone to the car to warm it up while we were all coming out of the church. He has the radio on and hears the news bulletin and he shouts out of the car they've just shot Martin Luther King! And a cheer goes up among the people coming out of church. I was 13 years old, and this stuff just burned in my head.
'Then one day you walk into work and everybody's gathered around the TV because kids are running out of a building with their hands above their heads. That's the first image I remember - the kids at Columbine running out with their hands above their heads because they were all suspects. They were all potentially guilty.
'That image, and the police with their guns trained on these kids, lining them up. You don't really see those shots any more because we don't want to reveal that that's what we think of our children, that they all could potentially do this because that's what we actually know instinctively as Americans. These weren't monsters. These were normal kids and it really could happen to anybody.'
Bowling For Columbine may be sprawling as it stretches out to encompass everything from the Columbine shootings to the welfare to work programme and the government and media's propagation of America's fear of the non-white, but it's clearly touched a nerve and speaks to a far bigger audience than one might have assumed in the current post-9/11 climate of gungho sabre-rattling. In its fourth week of release it broke the record for the most successful documentary previously set by Roger & Me.
'They did a poll of people coming out to see who's actually going. And over 50 per cent of the people they asked were people who'd never gone to a documentary in a movie theatre. It's reaching a much wider audience than one would expect with this kind of film-making.
'The same thing has happened with my book Stupid White Men (which the publishers originally tried to bury because of its criticism of George Bush). It's now been 32 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list - it's the year's largest-selling non-fiction book in America. I quote those numbers not to give you the sales statistics but to tell you that you're not looking at a fringe American. I am someone who I believe to be in the majority. 'We are filled with discontent, don't like what's going on, don't want a war with Iraq, did not elect the man who sits in the White House. There are millions of people who feel the way I feel about these things - we just don't have a voice. We don't own the media, we don't have a means to communicate with each other.
'The Internet has given us a way to do that, and it's been a great way for me to talk to people who support the things that I'm doing, but I hold out this sliver of hope that things could be better. …