A timely and ter­ri­fy­ing doc­u­men­tary

The Timaru Herald - - $ -

Fahren­heit 11/9 (M, 128 mins) Di­rected by Michael Moore Re­viewed by James Croot ★★★★

Don­ald Trump first met Michael Moore 20 years ago on the set of Roseanne Barr’s talk­show. Although, in fact, he nearly didn’t. Per­haps wor­ried about the doc­u­men­tar­ian’s rep­u­ta­tion for ask­ing the hard ques­tions, the en­tre­pre­neur was re­fus­ing to ap­pear op­po­site him un­less Moore promised to play nice.

Be­grudg­ingly, Moore obliged and was sur­prised to learn that ‘‘The Don­ald’’ was a huge fan of his de­but doc­u­men­tary Roger and Me. Although, the hote­lier joked: ‘‘I hope he never does one on me.’’ Two decades later, the thing Trump dreaded has come true, al­beit be­cause he him­self has be­come Moore’s and many other Amer­i­cans’ worst night­mare.

Fahren­heit 11/9 (the ti­tle a flip­ping of his 2004 Palme d’Or­win­ning, Ge­orge W Bush-fo­cused tale and a ref­er­ence to an­other sig­nif­i­cant date in US his­tory) looks at the events that led to the for­mer host of The Ap­pren­tice be­com­ing the 45th Pres­i­dent of the United States.

It was a sce­nario few saw com­ing. As a typ­i­cally pointed and poignant Moore mon­tage shows, on the eve of the elec­tion, celebri­ties such as Ge­orge Clooney, Katy Perry and Jay-Z had al­ready anointed Hil­lary Clin­ton as the next Com­man­der in Chief, while The New York Times gave her ri­val just a 15 per cent chance of win­ning.

But as the evening un­folded, it be­came clear there had been a dra­matic shift be­tween the ex­pected re­sult and re­al­ity.

With trade­mark tongue-incheek, our guide ini­tially comes up with a more hu­mor­ous take on who or what is to blame. Rather than the Rus­sians or FBI di­rec­tor James Comey, Moore sug­gests pop singer Gwen Ste­fani was the true cul­prit.

That’s be­cause when Trump dis­cov­ered that she was earn­ing more than him at NBC for her role as a judge on The Voice, he de­cided rad­i­cal ac­tion was needed. At­tempt­ing to prove his worth and pop­u­lar­ity, Trump staged a fake Pres­i­den­tial an­nounce­ment.

While the move back­fired and NBC sacked him for some of the more out­ra­geous com­ments he made dur­ing his speech, the in­ter­est it gen­er­ated was all the en­cour­age­ment he needed.

From there, Moore de­tails how the Amer­i­can me­dia and pub­lic were ma­nip­u­lated and how years of ne­glect of lo­cals by the Re­pub­li­can and Demo­cratic par­ties opened the door for the events of Novem­ber 8, 2016, to come to pass.

How­ever, he also of­fers a warn­ing of po­ten­tial events to come, es­pe­cially if the cur­rent regime is left unchecked. There are the teach­ers, across many states, un­der­paid and forced to wear Fit­bits to qual­ify for health in­sur­ance.

And, in his own home­town of Flint, Michi­gan, there’s the be­hav­iour of State Gov­er­nor Rick Sny­der. The for­mer CEO of Gate­way Com­put­ers de­cided to build a se­cond water pipe­line from Lake Huron to as­sist busi­nesses. How­ever, in do­ing so, he also switched Flint’s sup­ply from the lake to the heav­ily pol­luted Flint River. That de­ci­sion re­sulted in a doc­u­mented vast in­crease in pub­lic health is­sues – not that he would ac­knowl­edge them. When Gen­eral Mo­tors com­plained of the river water cor­rod­ing car parts though, Sny­der couldn’t have been more ac­com­mo­dat­ing.

Both of these sto­ries and Sny­der’s use of emer­gency pow­ers leg­is­la­tion will strike a chord with Ki­wis, es­pe­cially those in Christchurch who lived through the 2010-11 quakes. One al­most feels re­lieved the likes of Gerry Brown­lee were so be­nign in com­par­i­son.

But with Moore also throw­ing in ex­am­ples of Trump’s ‘‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate’’ be­hav­iour to­wards his daugh­ter Ivanka, com­par­isons with Hitler’s rise, and show­cas­ing the en­thu­si­asm for ac­tivism of stu­dents from Flor­ida’s Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School, there’s a dan­ger that his mes­sage be­comes a lit­tle too scat­ter­shot.

For­tu­nately, enough rev­e­la­tions and po­lit­i­cal and so­cial points hit home, and his use of footage of the panic that gripped Hawaii dur­ing the false bal­lis­tic mis­sile alert in Jan­uary, pro­vides a scary re­minder just how on-edge Amer­ica is at this time.

This is timely and ter­ri­fy­ing doc­u­men­tary film-mak­ing.

Michael Moore of­fers Amer­i­cans and the globe plenty of rea­sons to feel gloomy in Fahren­heit 11/9.

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