“Fahrenheit 9/11 may be the watershed event that demonstrates whether the empire of poli-tainment can have decisive influence on a presidential campaign. If it does, we may come to look back on its hugely successful first week the way we now think of the televised presidential debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, as a moment when we grasped for the first time the potential of a mass medium–in this case, movies–to affect American politics in new ways.”
I cannot argue. Philippe and I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. No matter what side you are on, left or right, or what you believe or don’t believe, you have to see the film. It’s deeply flawed and magnificently crafted. You can watch it as a meta-exercise for awhile, thinking this is a remarkable piece of counter-propaganda, but as Moore leaves his conspiracy theories behind and moves into the realm of simple events surrounding the war the film takes a new life. Everyone is talking about the first half– how true is it about the Saudis, the FBI, etc. But the second half is where the moment of great filmmaking occurs.
Moore first follows the path of death and its price on Iraq, with American soldiers portrayed as rock&roll killers listening to metal while mowing down children. We see Iraqui women crying, screaming, cursing and begging god and americans alike to explain why their families are taken away. But just when you think he’s making one kind of film, he flips it. He reveals the soldiers are the poorest Americans, with no future, willing to serve their country whether or not they agree with how it’s run. The same soldiers who pipe rock into their helmets are also the ones who ache over the bodies they roll by in the tanks, who die and lose their souls to the killing. Who refuse to go back “to kill other poor people.”
In this second half, politics fall away briefly against the spectacle of war: Iraqi children and American soldiers alike missing limbs. Iraqi and Americans alike asking why. War makes victems of both sides. It’s impossible to paint one side or the other evil. Moore’s sense of rhythm is impeccable: each time my eyes filled with tears, he would return to the business-as-usual capitol hill or a bit of humor. It was as if he wanted you to keep your eyes clear enough to see it all. No matter how biased the film is politically, it is startling evenhanded when looking at the battlefield.
So I say it again: right or left, you have to see the movie. I disagree with some of it; some of the heavy handed political rhetoric is off-putting. But the quilt of the last year sewn out of patchwork facts we all know, revealed via the eyes of those who pay the price (as well as those who don’t, as shown through the famous accosting senators to enlist their children scene) make you shudder and wake up and question.
It’s not the new information that gets you: it’s the information we’ve seen every day for the last year compressed into two hours that makes you pause– wait, what happened to Osama? Why did we go after Iraq again? Why are we talking about liberating a dictator as if that is why we went in– I almost forget we’re in a war on terror.
Our short memories and lack of planes crashing anywhere recently make it easy to forget why we went from peaceful-surplus to warful deficit.
Fahrenheit 9/11 a testament to the power of film, it’s a testament to Moore’s growing eloquence of a filmmaker, but more than all that it’s a affecting reminder that we have short memories and we as a people need to try harder to keep the big picture in our mind. I’m grateful that Moore helped.
Note: I rarely write about anything political so this is a reminder to keep comments civil, or I will delete them.
Disagree, but be nice.