THE FICTITIOUS TRUTHS OF MICHAEL MOORE

Following another youth involved with gun violence, this in Mike’s home turf of Michigan, we are shown footage that implies for a second time that Heston swept into town immediately to hold a gun rally in the area. In truth, what he was attending was a political fundraiser, and it had taken place nearly a year after the shooting. We can understand how the filmmaker might have overlooked this detail, as he was busy staging his own political rally for the Green Party on the exact date, in the same town. Hey, Mike had a lot going on that day, so we can forgive him.

Aside from this factual chicanery, the film makes other contortions that seem to challenge the constraints of documentary work. The famous bank scene where he is shown receiving a rifle as a bonus gift for opening a $1,000 account was disputed by the woman at that very bank, who said the filmmakers spent a month’s time in order to stage that scene, thus bypassing the standard practice of the usual 10-day waiting period and having to receive the rifle from a licensed dealer across town. In another portion on racism, there is footage with the infamous George Bush (#41) campaign advertisement that features the furloughed convict Willie Horton and it has a graphic that reads “Willie Horton Released-Then Kills Again”. The problem? Those words, and Willie Horton’s name, never appeared in the Bush advertisements, and neither were they found in those ads originally used by Al Gore during the Democratic primaries, where the Horton controversy began. This is borne of the simple truth that Horton was arrested at the time, not for murder, but for rape.

This racism mindset springs from Bowling’s rather farcical conclusion that the NRA and the KKK are intertwined, based on the inaccurate supposition that they were formed in the same year. Had Moore looked, he would have seen that what had taken place the year the NRA formed, (in New York state mind you, and not the South) was that two Federal Acts had been passed to make the practices of the already existing Klan illegal. The President that signed these anti-Klan decrees—Ulysses Grant—later went on to head the NRA, and his successor was a man known for removing from office politicians, who were Klan sympathizers. Moore also makes the egregious stretch that Heston himself is racist. This is sheer idiocy. Heston has for years been recognized for his pro-civil rights stances during the sixties, making small, symbolic gestures like marching with Martin Luther King and lobbying a then cloistered Hollywood to employ more minorities.

But these details would of course get in the way of Moore’s cant, and he never gets ruffled by those who point it out. One example occurred on a CNN news show when the host asked him directly about similar factual inaccuracies that had appeared in his latest book. Moore shot back with, “How could there be inaccuracy in humor?” This sounds like a sweeping attempt at deflecting what are legitimate criticisms. He can try to couch these glaring diversions from accuracy as humorous license, but then his film should become reclassified, as maybe “virtual realism,” or as a “docu-comedy”.

The temptation here is to shout back “Shame on you Mr. Moore!” but as we all know there is no shame in Hollywood, with the only exception being a film that loses money. Given that Bowling for Columbine pulled in a modest gross of $15 million over an even more modest budget, near $4 mill, it is doubtful Mike is feeling any indignity. So to paraphrase his terminology, I’ll declare that his was a fictitious Oscar result, for a fictitious documentary.
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Posted on March 28, 2003 in Features by
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