Director: Michael Moore
Screenwriter: Michael Moore
Donald J. Trump
Runtime: 128 mins.
Australian release date: 1 November 2018
Previewed at: Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, on 18 October 2018.
There is no argument in saying that Michael Moore’s films are overtly political and his latest, Fahrenheit 11/9, is no exception. It’s an unrelentingly provocative and, at times, sardonic look at the current state of the USA as its principles disintegrate under the aegis of the 45th President, Donald J. Trump. Specifically, it examines Trump’s US election win on November 9th 2016 and asks, “How the f*ck did this happen?” The filmmaker has never claimed that his films are detached observations of American life; on the contrary, he proudly acknowledges his leftist point of view and owns up to his intention of using documentary as a medium for change, and Fahrenheit 11/9 is very much in that vein.
It takes slightly over two hours for Moore to deliver his argument about why Trump won (or Hillary Clinton lost) and examine the consequences of having the White House occupied by a man whose own words have exposed him as a serial sexual abuser of women, a liar and a racist. Intriguingly, the film opens with the claim that Trump’s run for office began when he learnt that Gwen Stefani was being paid more by NBC for The Voice than he was for The Apprentice. According to this theory, his famous rant in the lobby of Trump Tower when he announced his run for the presidency and claimed that Mexicans are rapists was merely a bluff. He was apparently hoping that NBC would think they were going to lose him and so would offer him more money but when he got such a positive reaction from what would become known as ‘the base’, he decided to go the whole hog, so to speak. The rest is history; although it would be interesting to learn if NBC ever did offer him a raise?
Fahrenheit 11/9 covers a range of issues as it states its case but one which is closer to Moore than others is about the polluted water supply of his hometown, Flint, Michigan. Even former President Barack Obama seemed to sanction the corruption that led the Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, to change the source of the town’s water from Lake Michigan to a contaminated river, purely so Snyder’s political backers could make more money. Flint is, to this day, using the poisoned water and its inhabitants are suffering from its ill effects. Moore’s point is that politicians serve only their political masters, not the wider population. He is on record as saying that, “We’re in the latter-day stages of white men and capitalism running the show. They know their days are numbered so they’re going to try and grab as much as they can on their way out the door.” The film takes a scatter-gun approach to its subject but the interview footage includes many that are fascinating, including one from some years ago between Moore himself and then businessman Trump, conducted by Roseanne Barr. It shows Trump’s arrogance and reveals his sense of superiority, plus the self-belief that enabled him to get the top job and accept his delusions as truth.
Moore looks at the workings of both the Republican and Democratic Parties as he pores over the entrails of the 2016 election and he doesn’t hold back in his criticism of either of them. As he did in his 2015 documentary, Where To Invade Next, he reminds us that it’s vital for citizens to stay informed and to speak up when things aren’t just, especially when they involve fundamental human rights. Despite appearing to be a bit disjointed at times, the film does keep returning to its central thesis: that political power ultimately comes from the people, the voters, not politicians, and it’s up to them to keep the pollies in line. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, “We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws.” In the end, despite all the doom and gloom, Fahrenheit 11/9 finishes on a positive note and Moore opines that the younger generation thinks differently to its parents and change is a’coming. He says, “I hope the film inspires people when they see it to say yes, why don’t we do something about that?”