Thursday, July 01, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11
Did Fahrenheit 9/11 deserve the Cannes Film Festival award? Probably not.

The movie is a great piece of TV style documentary with a certain political agenda. It is made to inform the American public about the mafia who runs the government, and more than that it is made to change their mind about the ones they choose in the next election. In its rhetoric the movie uses the same devices the Right-extremists have used for years to manipulate the public mind. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a great political pamphlet, informing people in great numbers about what is going on in their 'democracy,' but at the same time bringing itself down to the level of the least intelligent TV shows. Is it the weak point for the movie or its stregth?

The fact is that the movie can convince many people not to vote for Bush in the next election, and makes them think about the criminals in power. But at the same time this kind of argument, the kind of over-simplification of the reality (like showing pre-war Iraq as a paradise for happy children and smiling people) that we see in the movie is something that the other side of the battle is expert in it. They can easily use the same technics against the movie.

There are certain beautiful moments in the work, like when Moore reads the Patriotic Act to the members of the Congress using a loudspeaker, while he is driving a Ice-cream truck, or when he asks the Congress members to sign up their children in the Army, but a big part of the movie is playing with viewer's emotions. Listening to a mother who reads the last letter of his son, killed in Iraq, who asks people not to vote for Bush is nothing but propaganda. The son could have written something in favor of Bush, and the crying mother could be shown on Fox. So what is the difference here between these two? When I think about it I don't see that much difference in the 'languge' used in both of these cases. The truth is to be politically effective, one can't do anything but what Micheal Moore does in this move: for a nation so addicted to fast-paced TV programs, simplified reality, and fast food (not only for stomack but for brain as well,) what else can be done to convince the nation not to vote for an idiot?
I call Fahrenheit 9/11 a political 'pamphlet' because despite its claims it still works on the surface, it plays with emotions and cry scenes rather than bringing up important issues such as WMD or the fact that the new wave of American imperialism began when Clinton was in power. It emphasizes on removing certain people from power, instead of talking about the mentality that is behind American foreign policy for decades. It doesn't show the roots of what is going on behind the scene. There are a lot of information on Saudis (which at certain points, in my view, becomes somehow anti-Arab rather than anti-terrorist), but there is no mention of the gang whose policies has brought the world to such a disastrous situation.

The fact that I politically agree with Michael Moore doesn't make his movie a good film, the same way my praise for cinematic beauty of movies such as Triumph of the Will or Battleship Potemkin, or my enjoyment of listening to Israel's national anthem does not make me a pro-Nazi, pro-Communist, or pro-Zionist. I think we need to separate art from its political agenda. The works which are made for attaining certain political goals all have political expiration dates. The question is if they are deep enough and artistically rich enough to survive the oblivion of history, when their political goals are a part of a forgotten past.

Picture: "Fahrenheit 9/11" in Asr-e Jadid (meaning "Modern World") Movie Theater in Tehran. from cappuccino.


  1. Ah yes, Godard said practically the same thing at the end of Cannes.

  2. "which at certain points, in my view, becomes somehow anti-Arab rather than anti-terrorist"

    I'm relieved to know I wasn't the only one who noticed this... In Bowling for Columbine, Moore gave a ton of attention to white America's apparent fear of black men. In F-9/11, I thought he attempted to instill fear of Arabs in his audience in the same way he demonstrates the media has done to black men in the past few decades.

    Good point about the movie's "drive thru" quality. This movie is a pre-election quick fix, making the people who have already made up their minds that much more steadfast in voting Republican or Democrat.

  3. I agree that the film probably didn't deserve a palm d'or in the Cannes, but I disagree with many of your points.

    Firstly I did not find the movie anti-arab at all. The film emphesised on the relationship between the Bush team and the Saudi Royal family (the king, the Ben Ladens, the embassador, etc). It also correctly pointed out that while most 9/11 terrorists were Saudi nationals (none of them were Iraqi), the big gun was pointed to Iraq, and even Iran, by labeling them Axis of Evil.

    Secondly, I'm sure that a pure political film which discusses Bush's gangster administration and the destructive role of the American foreign policy will not only be boring for 90% of the American audience (prime target of the film) but will also make them very confused and even less interested in the whole subject.

    Thirdly I liked the way he focused on human life and death both in the States and Iraq. His film showed that civilians and soldiers are more than numbers and statistics; they are real humans with feelings. This is what people tend to forget, and this is one of the reasons why professional armies are set up: To have people whose job is to kill and be killed - very very inhuman.

    Last but not least, Moore's film had this simple message: "Our children and Iraqi children are being killed for the sake of oil businessmen. WMD were just stupid excuses, our government is not even closely practicing democracy". All the jargons they use about WMD and Democracy are lies. Don't vote for them.

    Did you expect anything else from the film? I didn't. I'm sure the abovve message was well tailored for American public, they needed to be reminded of hidden facts.

  4. I realized that the kite flying Iraq kids was an overly rainbow-drenched image but it was a true image. I almost wish he would dwell on that a bit more because conservatives, my father for example, portray places like Cuba, Iraq, N Korea, as a muddy gulag with barbed wire and attack dogs and the flames of hell burning and use that to justify the uplifting effects of dropping a few American 1000 pound bombs and flippantly declaring "Afterall, anything is better than life under a dictator, isn't it?" People who live their whole life in the American midwest honestly don't realize the semi-normalcy of life in all these places. My dad would probably even deny that a single child flew a kite in Iraq on that day, claiming "the Dictator wouldn't allow such a thing."
    I have never been to Iraq or Iran, and am very sad that with the new state of the world I probably never can now.

  5. There is no dubt about the dictatorship in countries such as Iraq and Iran. But there are two things here that are very important:
    1. The legitimacy of the US action- Does the US has the right to intervene anywhere it wants? Who gave the US to take care of bringing democracy to other countries? and if the US has such a duty why it it doesn't do the same job in countries such as Burma, or Ozbakistan?
    2. Does such an action brings democracy to the occupeid countries? The experience of the last 3 years shows us something else. Afghansitan is country rulled by warlords and "Khaans", and Iraq is going to be a big mess.
    "Fahrenheit 9/11" could bring these arguments to the movie instead of over-simplifiucation of the reality of Iraq to a paradise attacked by the US.

  6. I so so agree with you. It's a documentary that is almost like propoganda, albiet with a liberal a piece of movie making, it dosen't have much going for it....I saw it in Delhi at an International Film Festival where everyone stood up and clapped...I was surprised, because we might agree with the agenda of Farenhiet and might support its message........but as a documentary it's almost like crudely made propoganda....