D: Michael Moore / 128m
With: Michael Moore, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Katie Endicott, Ben Ferencz, Mona Hanna-Attisha, David Hogg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Richard Ojeda, Robert Pickell, John Podesta, Bernie Sanders, Nayyirah Shariff, Timothy Snyder, Rashida Tlaib
Where to start…? As well as being the beginning for this review, you can imagine that was also the quandary faced by Michael Moore when it came time to decide what to include in his latest documentary, a state of the nation address that shows the movie maker at his angriest and unhappiest. Moore has been chronicling the on-going downfall of America for over thirty years, and here his passion and talent for exposing the hypocrisy at the heart of American politics is firmly at the forefront of Fahrenheit 11/9‘s clarion call to the American people. The movie begins with the election of Donald Trump as President, and Moore asking the question, “How the fuck did this happen?” But if you think that’s something of a slap in the face, there’s more to come, as Moore examines the uncomfortable relationship between Trump and his daughter, Ivanka; explores the correlation between Trump’s racist comments and the increase in systemic racism; abjures the political system that encouages the complacency that allows Trump’s recidivism to go unchecked; and asserts that democracy – true democracy – is something that America has never experienced.
Away from Trump, Moore returns to his home town of Flint, Michigan, a once thriving town that is now a shadow of its former self. With the town struggling to keep itself going, in 2011 State Governor Rick Snyder backed a plan to replace the mains water pipeline that supplied clear water to Flint from Lake Huron. While the new pipeline was being built, Snyder also backed the decision to use the Flint River as the primary source of clean water for the town. But the river was toxic, and though officials repeatedly told residents it was safe to drink, soon people were getting sick. Lead levels in the water were found to be so high that the people of Flint, including between six and twelve thousand children, had been effectively poisoned. There was an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease that claimed the lives of ten people. And nothing was done about it until recently. Even a visit from Barack Obama failed to alleviate the issue – and all because he asked for a glass of water. And that’s without the military coming in and using abandoned buildings and deprived areas in Flint as a place to carry out their war games. How much worse can it get for Flint? Even Moore doesn’t know.
Moore also turns his attention to the West Virginia teachers’ strike in early 2018, and the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that took place around the same time. With both these events, Moore shows how a new generation of Americans such as Richard Ojeda are beginning to challenge the political status quo with shows of solidarity and national marches. Moore shows there is still hope for the future, and makes the point that perhaps the nation needs this period of social and political upheaval before it can move on more profitably as a democracy. But it all comes back to Trump, the master liar and manipulator who took advantage of a bankrupt political system and used it to his own ends. To get an idea of how much Moore detests the man, see how uncomfortable he looks when he and Trump appear together on The Roseanne Show (and he has to be nice to the future President), and then watch in astonishment as he presents us with footage of Adolf Hitler speaking with Trump’s voice. Heavy-handed? Most definitely. And what follows isn’t the most rigorous of historical analogies, either, but as a warning of what might be around the corner, it’s chilling. And who’s to say Moore is wrong? After all, he was one of the few people who predicted Trump would win the presidency…
Rating: 9/10 – fiercely argued, and presenting facts and figures that often get left out of the argument – 75% of Americans believe immigration is good for the US; Barack Obama took more money from Goldman Sachs than any other contributor – Fahrenheit 11/9 sees Michael Moore back to doing what he does best: holding up a mirror to the myriad failings of American politics; necessarily hard to watch if you have any empathy for a country that has no idea how to make itself great again (or even averagely successful), it’s a movie that takes no prisoners on either side, but which also manages to find grains of hope in amongst all the fiascos and disasters.