– Summary –
Director : Michael Moore
Year Of Release : 2002
Principal Cast : Various, Narrated by Michael Moore.
Approx Running Time : 119 Minutes
Synopsis: Moore dissect America’s fascination with guns, why they proliferate, and what can be done to stop the insane slaughter of countless lives every year.
What we think : Damning indictment of the NRA, as well as America’s gun culture, in a film that never stops being powerful even now. While the argument against gun control in America continues to rage, the souls of innocent victims of mass killings across the country each year should make Government’s rage harder.
“If more guns made people safer, then America would be one of the safest countries in the world. It’s not.”
As the title suggests, the theme of this film, from controversial documentary-maker Michael Moore, is the tragic massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two teenagers killed 12 of their classmates and one teacher, and then shot themselves.
While the film remains focused (as it must) on the Columbine tragedy, it tells a much bigger story about the ubiquity of guns in the US, and perhaps even more, the American peoples’ heightened level of fear. The implication is that tragedies (not just the Columbine massacre, but other school killings and also the Oklahoma City bombing, as well as the US’s military interventions overseas) can be traced back to the peoples’ obsession with security and weaponry.
One of the most shocking parts of the film involves a montage of footage of dead and injured bodies from various US military operations, set to Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”. The cumulative death toll from these interventions is in the millions. Many are cruelly ironic – such as the US installing an Iranian dictator, then assisting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to kill Iranians, and finally invading Iraq. Or the CIA training Osama bin Laden, the US paying quarter of a billion dollars to the Taliban, then watching while Osama orchestrated the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre.
The story told by this film is essentially that Americans are being sold scary headlines on the news, and are becoming scared to death of anything from foxes to escalators. In relation to the Columbine shooting, the news across America reported that Marilyn Manson (aka Brian Warner) was promoting an agenda of violence and hate through his rock music. However, when Moore interviews Warner, he is surprisingly articulate and shows great insight, telling us that network TV promotes fear to drive the consumption cycle. Warner’s theory is then corroborated by Professor Barry Glassner (author of “The Culture of Fear”), who tells us that while actual murder rates have fallen 20%, television coverage of murder has risen by 600%. Furthermore, Arthur Busch (County Prosecutor of Flint, Michigan) tells us that while crime rates have been falling, gun ownership has been on the rise.
Whilst other similar first-world countries have annual gun deaths numbering in the tens to perhaps hundreds, the each year the US owes over 11,000 of its deaths to guns. This film very effectively raises the question: what causes so many gun-related deaths in America?
The film doesn’t answer this question, but one of Moore’s lines provides an excellent summary: “A public that’s this out of control with fear should not have a lot of guns or ammo laying around.”
I recommend this film for anyone who wants to learn more about the people who make up the population of the world’s only current superpower. Quite ironically, it will probably leave you very, very afraid.