I was in my graduating year of high school when Michael Moore released his groundbreaking documentary Bowling For Columbine and have been a fan of his work ever since.
Moore was honoured on the opening night of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival when his most recent film, Fahrenheit 11/9 launched the festival’s documentary program. Media reported that a group of women had arrived to the films world premiere dressed in red cloaks and white bonnets, an homage to the Handmaid’s Tale. While after the film Moore received an ecstatic and emotional standing ovation, which he celebrated alongside heroes from the film such as Parkland protestor David Hogg.
The following morning I arrived an hour before the festival’s first Press & Industry screening to ensure I secured a seat. Fahrenheit 11/9 is certain to be the most buzzed about political film of the year and Moore is timing things perfectly. It’s his largest opening release to date, just in time for America’s midterm elections.
Like critically acclaimed Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore’s skill for storytelling manages to simultaneously inform audiences while entertaining. While you might think Moore’s latest work is going to be an epic Trump takedown (and believe me, that man in the White House gets plenty of play), America’s most celebrated documentarian instead takes aim at American democracy, exposing how it has failed to keep its promise to its people.
The film begins on the eve of the election. Sharing the voices of media pundits, celebrities and politicians who mock the idea that Trump could ever be president. While the films introduction offers a laughable retrospective, many who woke up the day after the election wallowing in the depths of despair will find the experience triggering. Moore brilliantly plays a dramatic Italian opera during these initial scenes, making fun of the fact that everyone (but him) failed at predicting the presidential outcome.
Moore hilariously blames Gwen Stefani for the mess we’re in. He explains that Trump was livid when he discovered that the pop star was making more than him on The Voice than he was on The Apprentice. Both shows appeared on the same network so in an attempt to get a raise at work he launched a bid for president. His plan backfired when the network fired him from The Apprentice, but after his two sons coaxed him to attend a previously organized presidential rally, America’s favourite egomaniac became obsessed with the cheering crowds.
In Fahrenheit 11/9, no one is safe from Moore’s critique on the state of American politics. He first takes aim at the media, who have generated huge profits from Trumps presidency. He then zeros in on the fact that the majority of America’s media are run by old white men, and runs through a list of accused sexual predators from Roger Ailes to Charlie Rose.
Moore does an excellent job at highlighting the Flint water crisis, showcasing how Obama’s lack of action caused locals to lose trust Democrats. Moore also infers that once Trump witnessed how easy it was to poison an entire community (which he boldly refers to as an ethnic cleansing) he realized he could do just about anything without consequence.
Moore hopes Fahrenheit 11/9’s message will wake up those Americans who historically don’t vote or are currently sitting on the fence. Much of his fanbase are left leaning liberals, and while this honesty pill might be hard to swallow, he thinks it’s necessary to launch a successful revolution. Not a fight against Trump per-se, but a broader attack on the American political machine.
He exposes the corruptness of the Democratic party, sharing how its ideals have been bought over by big business. He points out that the democratic process, where every vote is supposed to count, has been significantly disabled by a small elite group that select each candidate behind closed doors.
While watching Fahrenheit 11/9 feels like you’re living a modern day horror story, Moore offers a sense of hope by featuring the wildly successful anti-NRA political movement led by the students of Parkland. When the director visits their HQ in Florida they explain how they feel their parents generation has failed them. How traditional media has failed all of us. And as one brilliant student exclaimed, “social media raised us.”
The film’s most compelling moment is when Moore compares Trumpism to the rise of Hitler in Germany. He interviews two history professors from NYU and Yale who take the audience step by step through Hitler’s rise to power. The similarities are so eerie one can only hope America doesn’t make the same mistake.