for Fictitious 'Documentaries'
Michael Moore is a
Michael Moore production "Bowling for Columbine" just won the
Oscar for best documentary. Unfortunately, it is not a documentary, by
the Academy's own definition.
- James Berardinelli
The injustice here
is not so much to the viewer, as to the independent producers of real
documentaries. These struggle in a field which (despite its real value)
receives but a tiny fraction of the recognition and financing of the "entertainment
industry." The award of the documentary Oscar to a $4 million entertainment
piece is unjust to the legitimate competitors, disheartening to makers
of real documentaries, and sets a precedent which may encourage inspire
others to take similar liberties with their future projects.
Bowling makes its
points by deceiving and by misleading the viewer. Statements are made
which are false. Moore invites the reader to draw inferences which he
must have known were wrong. Indeed, even speeches shown on screen are
heavily edited, so that sentences are assembled in the speaker's voice,
but which he never uttered.
These occur with
such frequency and seriousness as to rule out unintentional error. Any
polite description would be inadequate, so let me be blunt. Bowling uses
deliberate deception as its primary tool of persuasion and effect.
A film which does
this may be a commercial success. It may be amusing, or it may be moving.
But it is not a documentary. One need only consult Rule 12 of the rules
for the Academy Award: a documentary must be non-fictional, and even re-enactments
(much less doctoring of a speech) must stress fact and not fiction. To
the Academy voters, some silly rules were not a bar to giving the award.
The documentary category, the one refuge for works which educated and
informed, is now no more than another sub-category of entertainment.
Serious charges require
serious evidence. The point is not that Bowling is unfair, or that its
conclusions are incorrect. No, the point is that Bowling is deliberately,
seriously, and consistently deceptive. A viewer cannot count upon any
aspect of it, even when the viewer believes he is seeing video of an event
occurring or a person speaking.
The Lockheed-Martin facility depicted in the film is presented as a
manufacturer of weapons of mass destruction. (TRUTH:
the facility produces rockets for launching satellites)
The NRA is callous to gun slayings. (TRUTH:
the evidence distorted to reach this infactual end is expansive. The
sequence in Bowling in which Charlton Heston gives a defiant pro-gun
speech in Denver is edited to unbelievable distortion. The fiery "cold
dead hands" statement was not even made in Denver, but a YEAR after
the Denver (annual NRA members' meeting) in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Bowling's version of the Heston speech in Denver to REALITY
The impression is given in Bowling that the NRA and the KKK were (are?)
parallel groups - or more likely, that when the Klan was outlawed, the
NRA filled its shoes. (TRUTH:
Charlton Heston is NOT a racist, as alleged in Bowling. Heston involved
himself in the civil rights movement in the early 60's while the issue
was still too hot for Hollywooders concerned about their careers. He
also helped Martin Luther King break the Hollywood color barrier that
existed at that time. After its founding in New York by two Union Officers,
the NRA itself has a long and comprehensive history of aligning itself
in diametrical opposition to racism and the KKK.)
Moore sympathizes with the "little boy" at Buell Elementary
in Michigan who just found a gun in his uncle's house and took it to
school to kill a girl. Moore says "No one knew why the little boy
wanted to shoot the little girl". (TRUTH:
The "little boy" was the class bully and was already suspended
for stabbing another child with a pencil. Since that incident, the "little
boy" also stabbed another kid with a knife. Also- the "uncle's
house" was a neighborhood crack house. The uncle and the "little
boy's" father were, at the time, serving time for theft and cocaine
possession. His aunt earned her living from drug dealing. The gun was
stolen by one of the uncle's customers and purchased by him in exchange
Bowling makes note of $245 million that the U.S. gave to the Taliban
government of Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001 and then proceeds to illustrate
the alleged "result" by showing planes hitting the twin towers.
(TRUTH: The $245 million
in aid was given through the U.N. and non-governmental organizations
to relieve the famine that existed in Afghanistan at that time.
Bowling showcases a dramatic comparison of gun homicide stats from various
countries. (TRUTH: The
numbers don't add up - click
In Bowling, Moore enters a WalMart in Ontario, Canada to purchase, with
ease and without being identified, several boxes of ammunition. (TRUTH:
Canadian officials have indicated that the purchase, as depicted in
the movie, is either fake or illegal)
Moore shows footage of a B-52 on display at the Air Force Academy, and
sadly announces that the plaque under it "proudly proclaims that
the plane killed Vietnamese people on Christmas Eve of 1972." Interestingly
enough, Moore's camera only lets you see the plaque from a distance
sufficient enough to render the plaque impossible to read. (TRUTH:
The inscription on the plaque is: "Dedicated
to the men and women of the Strategic Air Command who flew and maintained
the B-52D throughout its 26 year history in the command. Aircraft 55,003,
with over 15,000 flying hours, is one of two B-52's credited with a
confirmed MIG kill during the Vietnam conflict. Flying
out of Utapao Royal Thai Naval Airfield in southeast Thailand, the crew
of "Diamond Lil" shot down a MIG northeast of Hanoi during
"Linebacker II" action on Christmas eve 1972.")
:: In part from "Bowling
for Columbine: Documentary or Fiction?" (read