Michael Moore has created another masterpiece and accomplished a number of excellent goals in the process (like getting K-Mart to stop selling gun ammunition).
Bowling for Columbine is funny. Timely, and well worth the cash.
Go see it quick before it leaves town!
Here's an interview with Michael Moore about the film.
Here's the full text of the links I cite in case they go bad:
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Craig Baldwin: Raider of the Lost Reel
5 December 2001
FAKING IT: THE MOCKUMENTARY
4 January 2002
Mike Moore reflects
Mike Moore laughs
Mike Moore making his point
Film : Feature graphic
Mike Moore Speaks:
Bowling for Columbine
Mike Moore at Cannes Film Festival 2002
Mike Moore at the Cannes
Film Festival 2002
On the morning of Tuesday 20 April 1999 in the middle-class town of Littleton, Colorado, USA, Eric Harris (18) and Dylan Klebold (17) began a rampage through the corridors of Columbine High School that ultimately ended their own lives and those of thirteen others; twenty-five more were injured.
Homemade bombs and explosive devices were found planted around the building and several survivors later reported that Harris and Klebold were smiling and laughing as they shot their fellow students.
This outrage shook the whole country and inspired Moore to make Bowling for Columbine to explore issues of gun control, racism and the politics of fear in America.
Bowling for Columbine became the first documentary to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival official selection for fifty-five years. It competed for the prestigious Palm D’Or with traditional feature films such as, The Pianist (Roman Polanski), All or Nothing (Mike Leigh), Kedma (Amos Gitai) and more than a dozen others.
Bowling for Columbine was awarded a newly created special award and many critics hailed the feature length documentary as a sign of the rebirth of the form.
Much sought after by the press and fans in Cannes, Moore conducted dozens of press conferences. In this fascinating session before a crowded room of international press and American film students he discusses his fears, obsessions, movie making techniques and some of the incidents that took place during the making of Bowling for Columbine.
Question and answer session discussing Bowling for Columbine, at the American pavilion, Cannes Film Festival, May 22, 2002,
Moderator: Elvis Mitchell, film critic of the New York Times.
Your style is a mixture of journalism and entertainment. The style is forceful but not hectoring. In Bowling for Columbine you discuss not just gun control but also racism and the media created culture of fear.
I thought it would be interesting to take a journey through this culture of fear. Most journalism does the who, what, when, where and how questions. But very few people in the media ask why does this happen? Why do we have 250 million guns in our homes especially when there’s been a huge decrease in crime?
A lot of your movie style is about serendipity too.
Mike Moore on Moments of Serendipity
Video of Mike Moore - "Moments of Serpendipity" (29 secs, 1.4 Mb Real Media File)
We stopped in for gas at a gas station and, if you’ve seen the movie, there’s a kid who wishes he was number one on the bomb suspect list but was bummed out because he was number two suspect after Columbine in the local school in Michigan.
We found him because he saw the camera equipment in the car and one of our film producers told him what we were doing and the kid says, ’Oh, I went to school here with Eric Harris one of the kids who did the killings here at Columbine – we were in the same class together.’
And it’s like (for me), ’Don’t say anymore’. Because if you say it and he has to say it a second time, it’ll sound like he repeated it.
So then we got the camera gear out, and that’s even before we knew about him being on the bomb list. He told us this incredible story about making bombs and napalm and being number two on the bomb list. And so many of those things we find out are in those moments of serendipity.
I don’t start with a rigid script. I don’t have a thesis that I have to shoehorn every interview into and I love being surprised and my own thinking being proved wrong.
I ring the bell at the gate and out of the box comes the voice of Moses. I’m thinking, ‘Holy shit, I don’t deserve this kind of good luck.
You know, finding Heston, we tried for two years to get him. We’re on the way to the airport in LA and someone in the van says, ’Lets get a Star Map and see if we can find Heston’.
Mike Moore speaking about Finding Heston
Video of Mike Moore - "Out of the box comes the voice of Moses" (40 secs, 1.9 Mb Real Media File)
I said, ‘Those things are no good, those things are bogus’.
But they started up like kids, ‘Na, I wanna a starmap, let’s get a starmap’.
And I say, ‘Yeah, ok’. So we stop and when we get one I say, ’Look at this. See what I’m tellin’ ya. Here’s the home of Andre Agassi and Brooke Shieilds - there is no home of Andre Agassi and Brooke Sheilds’.
‘Na, but there’s Heston. Lets go see if it’s real.’
So we drive up the road. I didn’t expect it to be his house. When you see the movie you’ll notice we didn’t even bother to wipe off the bird dirt from the wind shield. The guys are shooting it from in the van as we’re driving. So I ring the bell at the gate and out of the box comes the voice of Moses. I’m thinkin’, ‘Holy shit I don’t deserve this kind of good luck. I can’t believe I wasn’t going to get the star map and get up here’.
[ Editor’s note. Heston politely agreed to a television interview for the next day where upon Moore asked detailed questions about the nature of the National Rifle Association.]
Historians will write about us in the same way we now read of the Greeks and the Romans - as warrior cultures hell bent on killing people.
I grew up near Littleton (where the massacre took place) and I thought you handled the subject very sensitively. What attracted you to the story?
Remember there was a spate of these suburban school massacres. I was just intrigued that they were all occurring in these white, middle class communities. I guess that was one of the first things I thought about and I quickly came to the conclusion that we don’t know why, and probably no one will ever really know why these two kids did this.
It became a less important question to ask why they did it than to take a look at the fabric of the society we live in and the culture they lived in. Not just in Littleton but in any small town. You could’ve thrown a dart at any town on the map in America and done a tour similar to the one I did in Denver of the military installations, of the nuclear missles, the military culture that we live in.
Historians will write about us in the same way we now read of the Greeks and the Romans - as warrior cultures hell bent on killing people. We think of ourselves as more civilised but trust me, in 500 years from now that’s how historians and anthropologists will describe us - as a very strange group.
Thanks for liking the film. I’m very concerned about how people will take this in Denver and Littleton I wouldn’t want anyone to feel anymore pain than they already feel. The worst school massacre did not happen in Columbine it happened in Bath, Michigan in 1927. The school board treasurer put dynamite in the basement of the school and killed 44 children. We’ve always had crazy people. What you’ve got to try to do is make sure that when they snap, they don’t have easy access to assault weapons.
… every bad thing that has happened to me in my life, every piece of harm, has been from white people.
Fear is one of the main themes.
I wanted to ask, ‘What are we afraid of?’. I wanted to do a word association with white people. Instead of words, I’d do pictures and so I’d go to the white suburbs and say, ‘You’ve got these burglar alarms, locks and these guns. Who are you afraid of? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of someone who’s going to hurt you?”.
‘Is it a woman?’. So right away,’No’. Nobody believes a woman is going to mug them, break into their homes, kill them, rape them. It’s never a woman. You can eliminate 53% of the population right there.
‘So it’s a man, isn’t it?’. Then, let me ask you this: ’Is it little freckle faced Jimmy here, or is it Hakim?’. And a number of them were quite honest and those who weren’t honest would give, ’Well, I’m afraid of both of them’.
‘Come on’, I’d say. ‘Sweet little Jimmy here, that’s not who’s in your head. Why is Hakim, or Jose in your head? Who’s done this to you? Is it your personal experience?’
I write about it in my book - every bad thing that has happened to me in my life, every piece of harm, has been from white people. I have never had a black car salesman rip me off. I have never had a black landlord hold back my security deposit. I have never had a black teacher hold back giving me a grade I deserved.
I go back to when I was a kid. I’m thinking, ‘Jeez, every single thing has had a white face on it. Why would I be afraid of anybody black?’. And yet white people, - that would be most of you in here - if I could ask you honestly, or attach a heart monitor as you walk through any major city in America – the difference between three black teenagers walking towards you and three white one’s - I guarantee your heart is going to beat a little faster when it’s the black kids. And I’ll even admit that, and I believe I don’t have a racist bone in my body. So how has it embedded itself in my physiology? It’s so ingrained, so beaten into us from such an early age. How do we escape this?
Did you ever think of using a clip from ‘Birth of a Nation’ (1916 film which portrays blacks as rapists and the Ku Klux Klan as heroes) because that really is where the stigma began being attached to black people. That is the beginning of it.
That’s right, and people say, ’But Mike, that was a long time ago. Why are you talking about it now?’ But as I pointed out in my book, my grandfather was born three years after the civil war (1865) so it’s not that long ago.
This (racism) is a horrible, immoral, vicious legacy [and] we still live with the results of it until this day. We have not addressed it. We refuse to bring it up. I’m bringing it up because I want us to deal with it. I want to deal with it personally and I don’t mean dealing with it in the namby pamby liberal way of patronising it. I’m saying, ‘Let’s just cut the bullshit, white man, and resolve this’.
Mike Moore ponders
But one of the guys who was one of America’s biggest liberals, who marched with Martin Luther King in the ‘60’s, is in your film, [Charlton Heston] who is now one of the biggest representatives of the other side.
Right, Charlton Heston. He was a liberal democrat in the 1960’s. He was there marching with [Martin Luther] King. Before I got into the main discussion you see in the film I was talking to him about movies and politics and asked, ’Where did you make the change from Liberal Democrat to Conservative Republican?’
He said, ’Well, I was in Northern California in 1964 and I was making a film, Major Dundee. I was driving down the road and there was a Barry Goldwater for President billboard and it said, ‘In Your Heart You Know He’s Right’. I looked at the billboard and it was almost a vision and suddenly in my heart I knew he was right - and at that moment I made the switch’.
I show a fifty year period from 1953 to now of US intervention worldwide - and it’s a pretty ugly story.
When we first went to Littleton I did not know that the number one employer of the parents of the Columbine massacre kids was Lockheed Martin – the number one weapons manufacturer in the United States. I was shocked that we didn’t know this – not that it means anything specifically. I’m not saying that because your parents build MX missles your kids are going to kill a lot of kids at school. I’m not making that connection. I’m just saying military culture is woven into the fabric of American society in ways that we don’t even think about.
So I’m talking to a spokesman from Lockheed - they actually let me in the factory - and I said, ‘Do you think anyone makes the connection here (between building weapons and using them)?’.
He said, ’No, these weapons we’re building, they’re for defence and as Americans we don’t just go and drop bombs on people or fire weapons at them (like the kids did at Columbine)’. We cut that into the film before September 11th.
What a horrible day that was (9/11). We live in New York but we were in Los Angeles … and we got a hire car and drove across America by the Southern route. But instead of hearing the bloodthirsty cries for revenge which I thought we’d hear in Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, what we heard in the diners, in the motels and on the talk back radio was a lot of questions: ’Why?’ ‘Who did this?’ ‘Why do they hate us?’.
There was an innocence about the way the question was posed and after we got back home I thought; we should put the why in here. So I show [in the film] a fifty year period from 1953 to now of US intervention worldwide - and it’s a pretty ugly story.
Mike Moore telling his story
I took that sequence out and then put it back in because I was thinking, ’This is too harsh, this is really a bucket of cold water in people’s face’. But I want to make the type of film that doesn’t preach to the converted. I want people to be able to listen to me. I don’t want them to go, ’What’s wrong with this guy? Doesn’t he like this country?’ Because I love this country. I want it to get better. So in the end I decided to keep it in - it’s got to be said and I know it’s pretty confronting.
You showed the aftermath of September 11th; people buying gas masks and buying guns. Were you concerned about using that as one of the motifs of the picture?
Here’s why this should be in the movie. Because of the way fear works, the best way to convince people to be afraid is to show them enough truth, enough that is real so that they will be afraid.
I’m a non-violent person so I’m not going to revolt or rebel with weapons or violence so my sense of humour, my desire to ridicule those in power is very strong and I want to encourage other people to use it.
You have a lot of humour in your work. Why?
I think that humour can be the most devastating of weapons, and ridicule is probably the worst. To ridicule those in power. For example: on our TV show (The Awful Truth) there was a guy [and] his HMO (personal medical insurance) wouldn’t cover his operation - so he was going to die. So we went and conducted the guy’s funeral on the lawn of the headquarters of his HMO. It so ridiculed and shamed them that three days later they paid for the guy’s operation and he lived.
And I know some people don’t like that and don’t like the method but when you come from where we come from, what are our tools? I’m a non-violent person so I’m not going to revolt or rebel with weapons or violence so my sense of humour or my desire to ridicule those in power is very strong and I want to encourage other people to use it. Because it’s an effective weapon to make things better.
Tell me why you joined the National Rifle Association
I got an automatic junior membership in Boy Scouts. But of course back then the NRA did gun safety classes. It was a sports organisation, not a front for a right wing agenda. I then rejoined after Columbine with the intention of finding out all I could.
One of the stunts we pulled was with K-Mart where the kids bought the bullets for Columbine. I go to the K-Mart headquarters in Troy, Michigan to ask K-Mart to stop selling bullets for handguns and assault weapons. We went there one day and we went back the second day with press and a bunch of bullets that a kid had bought the night before at K-Mart. Within hours they came down. We could see the guy when we got there. He had the look on his face like he knew it was over. Within an hour they announced they were going to stop selling bullets in all 2300 stores. And you can see the look on my face because I’m used to being tossed out of these places - getting the short shrift. All I could think of was to shake hands and say thanks.
… and the longer we go without saying what needs to be said the more they continue to shred the constitution, take away our civil liberties and move the country to the right.
Mike Moore laughs
When you enter these adversarial situations do you ever feel uncomfortable and nervous or do you always feel excited?
I am actually very nervous. My stomach is in a hundred knots when I walk into these places. It may look like something else on camera but I’m very nervous. I go to the bathroom first. I’m an introverted person who likes to keep to himself and is nervous around people. I had two dates in High School I was always waiting for someone to ask me out.
Where does this confrontational performance style come from?
I didn’t make Roger and Me until I was 35. I just get to the point where if nobody is going to do it then I just gotta go do it. There’s this nagging thing that I think, ’God’, I’ve been feeling this about 9/11. Where’s the movie on this? The real one?’.
I’ve been playing with this animated feature I’ve been doing for fun but then it’s, ’Ah, shit. I have to make this (9/11) film’ … because I don’t think it’s going to get made and the longer we go without saying what needs to be said the more they continue to shred the constitution, take away our civil liberties and move the country to the right.
It’s vital. Otherwise nobody will try and ask the question, ’Why do they hate us?’. I just think we’ve been lied to so much.
Journalism works like an assembly line worker building a car. There’s a certain way of doing things and if I do it the same way each time I actually get a pay check at the end of the week. And unfortunately that’s the level of journalism in the States.
Is there a right wing conspiracy in the media?
I’ve never suggested a conspiracy. It’s not a conspriacy when Time and Newsweek end up with the same covers week after week. I think that we’re all in a general mind set in the news media. Journalism works like an assembly line worker building a car. There’s a certain way of doing things and if I do it the same way each time I actually get a pay check at the end of the week. And unfortunately that’s the level of journalism in the States.
But I’m concerned about the creation of fear –the idea of the malevolent, ’other’. After about two days in the Middle East you notice how similar everyone is and and you really don’t know if that person is Jewish or Arab … or whether the food is Arab food or Israeli food or the music.
One thing that strikes me is how this concept of fear has been used not just in America but around the world through the ages - where this person is different, is your enemy - when in fact this person is you. It’s so crazy, and the way that those with power, money and greed as their motives manipulate this [fear] to create a world of haves and have nots. I think that ultimately is what is underneath all of this.
Bowling for Columbine will screen in Australian cinemas later this year.
Reporter/Video: John Doggett Williams
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Sunday, October 20, 2002
Published on Saturday, October 19, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
Bowling for Baghdad
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Last week, your nation's capital was a bit more surreal than usual.
First and foremost, there is the sniper.
And just when the sniper arrives in the neighborhood, here comes Michael Moore with his much awaited critique of violence in America -- Bowling for Columbine.
We have three words of advice: go see it.
In one scene, Moore, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, goes to door to door in Toronto, Canada, doesn't knock, and just walks in.
Apparently, in Canada, many people don't lock their doors.
This in a country, Canada, where there are 7 million guns for a population of 33 million.
But in Canada there are fewer than 400 gun deaths a year.
In the United States, we hit 400 in two weeks -- that's 11,000 gun deaths a year.
In the U.S., eight children under the age of 18 are killed by guns in America every day.
Moore raises a disturbing question: if it's just the guns, stupid, then how come Canadians are not slaughtering themselves the way we are slaughtering ourselves?
This question takes Moore to Littleton, Colorado, the site of the Columbine massacre, home to the war machine Lockheed Martin, the war machine that sponsors the news on National Public Radio.
There he interviews a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin, who tells Moore that the weapons the company builds there are used by the United States for defensive purposes.
Moore then cues up the war footage and runs through the history of U.S. aggression throughout the world -- from Central American, to the Middle East, to Southeast Asia.
This juxtaposition of government and corporate violence with grainy film from the Columbine school's security camera capturing young children massacring young children drives home Moore's larger point -- that the violence and duplicity in our society starts at the top.
Which brings us back to our nation's capital, where both parties' leadership, in part at the urging of the military-industrial-complex, gave the green light last week for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq.
We attended a press conference held by House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri), the day after Gephardt went to the White House, stood by Bush, and gave the green light for war.
We had with us an editorial from that morning's St. Louis Post Dispatch titled "Gephardt Caves." Our sentiment exactly.
In it, Gephardt's hometown paper said that the reason he sided with Bush was because he wanted to be Speaker of the House, and then President. (This pattern, by the way, followed for other Democratic presidential hopefuls -- Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota), Hillary Clinton (D-New York), John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut), Diane Feinstein (D-California), John Edwards (D-North Carolina) -- all of whom voted with Bush on the war.)
All said it was not about politics -- not when young (American) lives are at stake.
But the Post-Dispatch called Gephardt on it.
Gephardt "protests too much when he says he is rising above politics."
"He wants to be speaker of the House -- or president," the Post Dispatch wrote. "He can't achieve either goal taking an unpopular stand against a war against Saddam."
We asked Gephardt whether he wanted be speaker or President.
"That's irrelevant," he shot back.
We then went over to the White House, where Ari Fleischer was conducting one of his press briefings.
We wanted to know about a two-sentence letter from Theodore Sorensen, the former legal advisor to President John F. Kennedy, that was published in the New York Times.
Sorensen wrote this:
"President Bush has not yet openly reprimanded his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, for suggesting that 'a bullet' is the cheapest way of accomplishing his goal of regime change in Iraq. Is it possible that the United States now endorses for other countries a policy of presidential assassination, the very epitome of terrorism, after our own tragic experience with that despicable act?"
So, Ari, did the President reprimand you?
Ari says: "As far as that is concerned, on the policy, as you know -- I think you were here when I said on the record that that is not -- and people heard it the day I said it -- that is not a statement of administration policy."
But did the President reprimand you for saying that?
Ari says: "I think I have made the views clear of where the White House is on this."
We then head back over to the Congress, where the war-mongerer Senator Lieberman was releasing a Senate Governmental Affairs report on why Enron happened.
The conclusion: "All the public and private agencies that were supposed to exercise oversight and protect investors failed miserably."
The report was especially critical of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for failing to review any of Enron's annual reports after its 1997 filing. Before going over to the Lieberman briefing, we rang up former SEC chair Arthur Levitt.
We asked Levitt what we should ask Lieberman.
"Ask him -- where was Lieberman?" Levitt told us. "He was busy tying up the SEC in knots over auditors' independence, over the budget, and over options accounting."
We put this to Lieberman.
Lieberman gets testy and shoots back:
"Well, I hope he didn't say that, and if he did, it is grossly unfair and inaccurate."
Actually, quite fair and accurate.
Michael Moore is a political agitator.
Go to see his movie -- and take as many friends and family members with you as possible.
Gephardt, Lieberman and Bush are political leaders.
Listen to them, and you can only get angry -- and then organize to kick these guys out of office.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, http://www.multinationalmonitor.org. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999; http://www.corporatepredators.org).
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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