Thanks to Madman Films, we got to see Fahrenheit 11/9 before its Australian release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
Michael Moore’s newest documentary Fahrenheit 11/9 follows in the footsteps of his previous critiques of American society, but throughout the film there is a driving sense that something has drastically changed. Even the title, a reversal of Moore’s highly successful 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, indicates that things in the US have been turned on their head. The film is an examination of the current state of American politics – covering issues ranging from the Trump administration, school shootings, the media cycle and what Moore considers the failure of modern democracy.
With the film’s comical poster as a reference, viewers may enter the cinema expecting a vast majority of Fahrenheit 11/9 to simply chart the rise of Donald Trump and his ascent to the presidency of the United States, but this would be to grossly underestimate Moore’s critical vision as well as his ability as a filmmaker. Moore certainly directs a fair amount of criticism at Trump and the Republican Party, but Trump is presented as a product of the times, an effect more than a cause. The film actually devotes a large amount of time painting a damning picture of a system which is broken in many places, scrutinizing America’s political system as a whole; the Democrats, the Constitution, the media, and even Moore’s place as an influential person himself are by no means left unscathed. It seeks to tell us that if the phenomenon of Trump is the result, then the rest of the US is complicit in creating a political and social atmosphere which allows such things to happen.
Fahrenheit 11/9 features Moore’s distinct approach to criticism and investigation, and despite the grave messages of the film, his often humorous documentary style ensures it also entertaining. Interviews, infographics, the use of soundtrack and both recent and archival footage are sewn together to create the main lines of argument. There is also of course Moore’s narration, which is at once a guiding source of humour, dread and hope. As in all of his successful documentaries, the arguments are crafted to be powerful and clear – how a president has never before been able to “commit his crimes in the open” and get away with it, how sexual assault allegations, gun violence and racial rifts can be such prevalent problems and yet so widely ignored by those in power. There are direct comparisons made between Trump’s speeches at rallies to those of Adolf Hitler at Nazi Party conventions, but Moore takes the comparisons much further than appearances. Our attention is drawn to Trump’s suggestions of extending his term to or beyond sixteen years, Moore warning of a reality which could see Trump collecting powers similar to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, or Chinese leader-for-life Xi Jinping.
A main through-line of the film is that by gradual degrees, elements of authoritarianism and fascism are creeping into American politics. Moore uses a prominent case study which reveals how ‘emergency power’ was collected into the hands of a single Republican governor under the cloud of a water contamination crisis which saw citizens of Flint, Michigan present high levels of lead poisoning. The city of Flint happens to be Moore’s birthplace, and so this in particular is noticeably personal for him. The case he puts forward is not dissimilar from the argument Moore made in his 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11 about the Bush administration using the fear and emergency of the September 11 attacks to push an agenda for war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When the arguments put to us by Moore throughout the film are considered together, it becomes apparent that he is encouraging audiences to see the bigger picture, to observe where current events fit into the patterns of history so that the question “when was the time we could have stopped this?” might not be needed. The hopeful element to the film shows teenage school-shooting survivors becoming involved in activism, and a surge of grassroots Democrats challenging the broken system. These are points of example with which Moore aims to instil in us the idea that the public, the people as a whole, have the power to halt the impending doom of democracy.
In Cinemas November 1