I saw this documentary on opening night and I was absolutely blown away by it. It is a documentary by Michael Moore
focused on the USA and its obsession with guns
. It has many focuses but spends much of its time asking tough questions about why there are so many more acts of violence involving firearms in the USA
than anywhere else.
One of the most shocking sections of the film is a juxtaposition between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario in Canada, two cities that are directly across a river from one another and have near equal statistics concerning ethnicity, number of guns in homes, and income per capita, but shockingly uneven statistics regarding homicides involving firearms. I don't recall the exact number of homicides in Detroit that involved guns, but it was a lot. Just across the river there was one homicide involving a gun in the past three years.
To further illustrate the difference in cultures that are so close to each other Moore asks people about their thoughts on home security in Windsor and finds out that most people don't even lock their doors. Disbelieving, Moore actually goes door to door for awhile opening people's front doors and just saying hello to them if they are home. No one minded terribly once he explained how shocking that idea was to him.
The movie is both very funny (it has interludes featuring Matt Stone of South Park fame, and Chris Rock touting the need for less worry about gun control and more concern for "bullet control") and very sharply disturbing. It features footage from the Columbine High School library that I've never seen before. Footage with audio provided by students in the library calling local media and 911 as Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris run into the library tossing explosives around and shooting students.
Does anyone remember a few years ago in Los Angeles when a man stopped his truck on the freeway and unravelled a banner condemning the HMO that had let him down, then bent over a shotgun and shot himself in the face on live television? A key moment of that live broadcast finds its way into this film.
Throughout the 2 hour long film Moore travels all over the USA interviewing people who come from very different perspectives on the gun issue. He talks to militiamen who want to make it clear that they do not support terrorism (including James Nichols, brother of Terry Nichols, the man now serving life in prison for his involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing), he talks to students shot by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, parents who lost children in that high school, and executives at K-Mart, the chain store where the bullets used in Columbine High School were purchased.
In an amazing interview he talks to Marilyn Manson, who lives up to his reputation as a well-informed spokesperson for misplaced youth when Moore asks him about what he would say to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold if he could have talked to them before they did what they did.
"I wouldn't say anything. I'd listen to them, because that's what no one ever did for them before."
At this point the audience in the theater applauded and cheered.
What is very important to me, and to this movie as a piece of art that has a message, is that you never doubt Michael Moore's sincerity. He is truly trying to find out why things are the way they are and not just making a lot of noise or trying to make a buck. I heard a few people comment about how Moore is now more of a bully than he was in Roger and Me. I can't really speak on that, but let me just say that as a citizen of the USA I feel more bullied by television media and fear than anything else and I appreciate someone bullying the bullies, if that is in fact what you think he's doing.
The movie closes with an impromptu interview with Charlton Heston, head of the National Rifle Association (who may or may not have granted the interview because Moore told him he was a member of the NRA, which he is). Moore actually only got the interview by buying a "Map of the Stars' Homes" and driving to Heston's front gate.
During the interview Heston's response to the central question of the film (why are there so many more gun deaths in the USA than in other countries?) seems to be about race. He literally says that he thinks the reason is that the USA has a more ethnically diverse population, simultaneously demonstrating his own ignorance of the diversity of other nations around the world, and making some sort of comment about how races can't mix. When confronted about statistics disproving this, he brings up the United States' violent history. Moore, of course, brings up the terribly violent histories of Germany, Britain, China and Japan and points out that more people die every year in the USA from guns than all those other nations combined. Heston had seen better days. Moore then does the only act in the movie I definitely call bullying. He brings out a picture of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland, the first-grader girl who was killed by another first-grader in Detroit in 2000, and asked Heston what he thought of that incident. Heston said goodbye to Moore and walked off.
The movie gives you a lot to think about.