Thursday, September 02, 2004

Saw Fahrenheit 9/11

After reading countless articles about it, ranging from unlimited appraisal through appraisal with mainstream-ist caveats through ideological to outright dishonest attacks from libertarian, neoliberal, media elite, and right-wing viewpoints, and responses to these (i.e. all the things covered to death which I won't deal with here), I finally had a chance to see it in my hometown.

I liked it. It was different from Bowling For Columbine, more issue-oriented, the 'showing people are people whether they're good or bad in the story' theme I wrote about was much much weaker (for example, the two Marine recruiters in Flint Michigan were only showed while doing their despicable ratcatcher job; and while pre-live takes of the Bush admin members showed them as humans, they showed them just plain scary). However, this is a result of Moore's decision to mostly stay behind the camera this time, barring him from effectively pushing people out of the roles they play.

On the other hand, the suffering of the Iraqi people at the hands of US soldiers was much more prominent than I feared, based on all the articles reflecting only on how he portrayed the suffering of the troops. Also, except for the first and middle part of the film, Moore chose a more serious tone, and I see both choices as good ones - the issue is just too sad to ride through with cartoons and all, but the two hours of it would just have been unbearable had there been no satirical part at all. Not to mention how the target audience, conservative Middle America would take it.

What Moore's documentary is particularly strong in (and what mainstream media types hate him for) is contrasting talk with practice, filmed practice, instead of the virtual world of studio talks with 'experts' and politicians, where on-site takes are only for the background. Soldier talking about securing freedom, cut to Iraqi girl crying in night-time sweep. Patriot act as claimed, and as practiced - lack of security at airports (matchsticks can be taken on board) and on roads in Oregon (budget cuts leave eight rangers on the roads, part-time), and the full force of law against harmless people who did nothing.

It is said one picture tells more than thousand words, and sometimes one take reveals more than a thousand statistics. I say this as someone keen on analysing all kinds of data - but my data is always at best second-hand information, processed, and one shouldn't lose sight of the basics: there might always be details missed that change the meaning of the whole. The black congress members getting progressively more hurt as no Senator has the balls to support their case about the Florida voter disenfranchisement. The woman still in the bubble trying to be patriotic and insulting the mother of a dead soldier, who just realises she was a bubble-dweller like her.

Some of the best of these revealing moments came in scenes I already read of, on the ocassion of some contested data or argument or implication. For example, there is much debate about how much of the US economy the Saudis own. The number is a claim by someone Moore interviews in front of the Saudi Embassy, but just when he does, a Secret Service guy cruises up to ask what's up. I mean, the President's own bodyguards take care about Prince Bandar's security, doesn't that say more about the intimate relationship than arguments about the size of Saudi investments?


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