Fahrenheit 11/9

 

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A state of the nation movie that does more than hit out at Trump.

 

Fahrenheit 11/9

 

Back in 2004, the famed documentarian Michael Moore made an acclaimed feature in which he cast a critical eye on things done by the Bush administration after the terrorist attack of 2001. He entitled it Fahrenheit 9/11. Now on taking a look at American politics in the Trump era he has realised that, since Trump was elected president on 9th November 2016, his critical stance can be indicated by using the equivalent title with the figures inverted. That may seem apt indeed, but it does perhaps suggest that this new work is all about Trump whereas, significantly, the views expressed in it go beyond that.

 

This is a long feature - too long in fact - which for much of its length finds Moore at the top of his form. The early scenes do concentrate on the events of 2016 starting on the election eve but incorporating, along with a brief look at Trump's earlier career, footage of the campaign that built up to the day when Michael Moore himself was one of the few not to be surprised by Trump's victory. In his voice over (Moore does appear but this time relies far more on his soundtrack commentary), he acknowledges with regard to this early material that none of this is new. That may be true, but how entertainingly he assembles this footage. Yet for all of the witty disrespect present here the film brings home the grimness inherent in Moore's view of where America stands today. Even so, it is the later sections that hit home the hardest.

 

Coming from Flint in Michigan (the scene of his 1989 debut Roger & Me), Moore unsurprisingly takes the maladministration of the state's governor, the Republican Rick Snyder, to illustrate how in a dangerous and long-running water crisis the needs of the people were ignored. If Snyder is the chief focus of his attack here, Barack Obama also comes out of this badly. Another example of those in power frustrating the will of the people concerns the way in which West Virginia's support in the primaries for Bernie Sanders as a candidate was overridden in favour of fellow democrat Hillary Clinton. Thus, Moore is not partisan in his criticisms and points to the failure of both parties to respond to the needs and wishes of the people thus leading to the failure of disillusioned citizens to vote. He paints a bleak picture but also finds some hope in actions by ordinary members of the public, be it the youngsters demanding gun control after killings in Florida or teachers ignoring the compromises of their union to fight for fair conditions and fair pay.

 

In its later stages the film again puts Trump screen centre but here it becomes overextended and, while a comparison between Trump and Hitler is intriguing (a sporting parallel certainly takes the eye), the treatment of it takes on an exaggerated tone which plays into the hands of those seeking to dismiss this film as mere Trump bashing. In fact, it's considerably more than that, a patriot's cry of despair at what American democracy looks like today. At the same time, although we learn that Trump once expressed approval of Roger & Me, we can be certain that he will take a different view of Fahrenheit 11/9 - and for many that will be a recommendation too.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Michael Moore, Roseanne Barr, Joe Biden, Wolf Blitzer, Barbara Bush, Jeb Bush, Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, George Clooney, James Comey, Ted Cruz, Larry King, Jared Kushner, Matt Lauer, Jenifer Lewis, Marla Maples, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Mike Pence, Katie Perry, John Pedesta, Vladimir Putin, Charlie Rose, Mario Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Rick Snyder, Gwen Stefani, George Stephanopoulos, Donald Trump III, Barron Trump, Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Melania Trump, Barbara Walters.

 

Dir Michael Moore, Pro Michael Moore, Carl Deal and Meghan O'Hara, Screenplay Michael Moore, Ph Luke Geissbuhler and Jayme Roy, Ed Doug Abel and Pablo Proenza, Music Scott Lee Miller, Jesse Voccia and The Hit House.

 

Midwestern Films/ State Run Films/Dog Eat Dog Films-Vertigo Films.
128 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 19 October 2018. Cert. 15.