Gulf News


Ac­claimed doc­u­men­tary film­maker re­turns with a sear­ing look at the US pres­i­dent’s reign with ‘Fahren­heit 11/9’

- By Glenn Kenny

Michael Moore be­gan his film­mak­ing ca­reer with an in­ves­tiga­tive pas­sion and a flair for show­man­ship. His 1989 de­but fea­ture, Roger

& Me, used the funny pop­ulist hook of Moore, in his work­ing-class Every­man per­sona, pur­su­ing Roger B Smith, the then­head of Gen­eral Mo­tors, to con­front him about the com­pany’s aban­don­ment of Moore’s home­town, Flint, Michi­gan.

In his new doc­u­men­tary, Fahren­heit 11/9, Moore, his sense of show­man­ship not only in­tact but en­hanced by a big­ger pro­duc­tion bud­get, fills a wa­ter truck with the same sup­ply that’s piped to Flint res­i­dents for drink­ing and bathing.

This wa­ter is fa­mously pol­luted with lead (among other tox­ins), in a years­long scan­dal that’s still not come to a sat­is­fac­tory con­clu­sion. (“No ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion has fig­ured out how to poi­son an en­tire Amer­i­can city,” Moore notes in voice-over.

“It took the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Party to pull that off.”)

He drives the truck to the home of the most pow­er­ful Repub­li­can in Michi­gan, Gover­nor Rick Sny­der, and wa­ters his lawn with it.

For Moore, the sit­u­a­tion in Flint is a mi­cro­cosm of the dis­as­ter he sees Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump im­pos­ing on this coun­try.

The movie be­gins with a 2016 elec­tion “how did this hap­pen?” mon­tage, mak­ing clear that the cy­cle of in­stant news fol­lowed by the in­ter­net’s in­stant re­ac­tion has di­luted the im­me­di­acy of Moore’s canny cine­matic sto­ry­telling — it was a lot of stuff I’d heard and seen be­fore.

But Moore recog­nises an affin­ity he shares with the pres­i­dent — also a show­man. So he is in a nearly unique po­si­tion to shame the viewer with a frank per­spec­tive on how Trump used his ex­tro­vert side to make cit­i­zens com­pla­cent about the less savoury as­pects of his char­ac­ter.

Trump has “al­ways com­mit­ted his crimes in plain sight,” Moore says in the film. He al­ludes to ac­counts chal­leng­ing his busi­ness prac­tices and high­light­ing his ex­pres­sions of big­otry. And yet while Trump starred in The

Ap­pren­tice, Moore con­tin­ues, “no­body wrote in to NBC to ask for the re­moval of an overt racist” from its air­waves.

This mo­ment jolted me. As a nearly life­long New Yorker, I had long been some­one who shrugged off Trump’s words and ac­tions for decades, be­liev­ing he was just a bad joke that the city was in­flict­ing on the rest of the world. And so here we are.

Fahren­heit 11/9 has a struc­ture of peaks and val­leys. There is an abun­dance of “Amer­ica is screwed” ma­te­rial. The sec­tions on the Flint wa­ter scan­dal are in­fu­ri­at­ing. The “he was robbed” thren­ody for Bernie San­ders is con­sid­er­ably less com­pelling, but it raises valid points.

Re­lief ar­rives with “but there’s hope!” scenes, which de­pict in­sur­gent Democrats like the con­gres­sional can­di­date Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez and young ac­tivists like the Park­land school shoot­ing sur­vivors Emma Gon­za­lez and David Hogg. They’re Moore’s idea of The So­lu­tion. Demo­cratic Party elites like Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton and the New

York Times, which Moore con­sid­ers an epit­ome of gut­less cen­trism, are, among oth­ers, part of The Prob­lem.

The ver­sion of the movie I saw had no end cred­its, and ac­cord­ing to a pub­li­cist at the screen­ing, Moore is tin­ker­ing with the movie still. The cut screened for me and other crit­ics ended with a con­trived but emo­tion­ally ef­fec­tive coup de the­atre that dares the viewer to call it cheap. But the more I flirted with the dare, the more plau­si­ble Moore’s dra­matic spec­u­la­tion felt. He’s still got it in the show­man­ship de­part­ment.

 ?? Pho­tos by Rex Fea­tures and cour­tesy of Bri­ar­cliff En­ter­tain­ment ?? Film­maker Michael Moore.
Pho­tos by Rex Fea­tures and cour­tesy of Bri­ar­cliff En­ter­tain­ment Film­maker Michael Moore.
 ??  ?? Fahren­heit 11/9 re­leases in the UAE to­day. Don’t miss it!
Fahren­heit 11/9 re­leases in the UAE to­day. Don’t miss it!
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.
US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

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