Michael Moore explains the "unexplainable"
Review by Elizabeth Schulte | November 1, 2002 | Page 9
DOCUMENTARY: Bowling for Columbine, written and directed by Michael Moore.
OVER THE last few weeks, as police conducted their manhunt for a sniper linked to shootings in the Washington, D.C., area, the media kept up the same drumbeat. Fear, fear and more fear. Like John Ashcroft's never-know-when, never-know-who world of terrorist threats, the TV news pounded away at the idea of a mysterious attacker, laying in wait.
In his new film Bowling for Columbine, left-wing filmmaker and author Michael Moore asks the questions that the media didn't. Where does the violence come from? Just what is it about America that makes it such a dangerous place to live?
Moore is best known for the 1989 film Roger and Me, about how General Motors devastated the city of Flint, Mich., by shutting down auto plants and stealing the futures of tens of thousands of workers. Now his new film, Bowling for Columbine, has set the all-time opening weekend box office record for a documentary in the U.S.
It doesn't disappoint. Moore tackles a difficult topic by combining a sense for the absurd with unflagging defiance of authority and a talent for telling the stories of ordinary people.
The film name refers to what two high school students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, were doing the morning that they went on a shooting spree, killing 13 of their classmates at Columbine High School, and then themselves. They went bowling.
Moore goes to the site of the shooting in Littleton, Colo., and interviews some of its residents. They include a representative of Lockheed Martin, one of the world's largest weapons makers, located near Littleton. Could there be a connection, Moore asks, between the killings carried out by two teenagers and the weapons of mass destruction being manufactured miles away from their high school?
Moore points out that as President Bill Clinton took the podium to condemn the violence on the part of the two Colorado boys, U.S. war planes that very day waged their most destructive day of bombing during the 1999 NATO war on Serbia.
Bowling for Columbine illustrates the violence at the core of U.S. foreign policy with a powerful montage that shows decades of U.S. military interventions. The montage ends with the World Trade Center attacks last year--and notes that Osama bin Laden received his training from the CIA. In the background, Louis Armstrong sings, "It's a wonderful world."
As we well know, the politicians and the media found scapegoats for Columbine. The evils of video games, movies and rock music were to blame, argued politicians like Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.)--the very Democrat who now leads the war cry for a "regime change" in Iraq
In schools around the country, all eyes were focused on what horrible crime our children would commit next--leading to outlandish decisions such as when a grammar school kid was sent home for pointing a chicken strip at a teacher as if it were a gun.
Later on in the film, Moore goes to the site of another less-publicized school shooting in his own devastated hometown of Flint, where a 6-year-old boy took a gun to school and shot a 6-year-old girl. Rather than relegating the incident to the list of unexplainable tragedies, Bowling for Columbine looks deeper.
The filmmakers go on the 80-mile round trip that the boy's mother took every day to complete her work requirement for welfare. Her two jobs--serving food to affluent suburbanites--weren't enough to make rent. So to shield him from the eviction, she had her son stay with a relative. It's there that he found a gun and took it to school.
The real crime is exposed--a government that makes a priority of penalizing the poor, rather than giving them the resources that they need to raise their kids. As she's interviewed, the teacher in the boy's struggling school breaks down in tears.
But not everyone had the same reaction to this tragedy. A week after the shooting in Flint, decrepit ex-movie star and gun nut Charlton Heston took the stage for a National Rifle Association rally in Flint. Just as he'd done after the Columbine shooting, Heston raised his rifle and declared, "From my cold dead hands!"
But Bowling for Columbine isn't just about taking on the NRA bigots--or even just about gun violence. It's about shining a light on the violence of war and poverty--the source of the real terror in U.S. society.