Director(s): Michael Moore
Writer(s): Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Sep 21, 2018 - Wide
When all the newspaper and television pundits were chuckling that Donald Trump — the foul-mouthed, boorish, slogan-shouting Republican nominee — had no chance of winning the 2016 election, Michael Moore was one of the few left-wing voices to warn that a Trump presidency was not only possible but probable.
Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore’s latest documentary, shows that the filmmaker wasn’t being a contrarian but rather was reading the tea leaves and seeing discontent and apathy in the Rust Belt that could swing the vote towards the former reality star. Not because the combed-over candidate was a master campaigner, but because the largest “party” in the United States was not the 60 or so million that voted for each of the two parties. The largest group in the electorate was the 100 million eligible voters who didn’t vote. These people had checked out of the electoral process. Though many would blame the GOP, Moore’s documentary illustrates how the actions of the Democratic Party and even President Obama also led to their disillusionment. As Moore says. “When the people are continually told that their vote doesn’t count, that it doesn’t matter, and they end up believing that, the loss of faith in our democracy becomes our death knell.”
Moore covers a lot of ground in this documentary, from the water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan to the rise of the nationalistic, racially-charged populism being embraced by many on the right. Voter involvement was under attack from both the right and the left and there are moments in this documentary that might have you curling up in a fetal position thinking about the state of democracy in the U.S.
Moore doesn’t paint everything with a bleak brush. We see how teachers in West Virginia showed how solidarity could improve the lives and conditions of some of the nation’s most underpaid educators. We see the activist Democratic candidates facing down the backroom networks of their own party to remove the deadwood that relies on the status quo. And we see the Parkland, Florida students that suffered a terrible mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but turned lazy politicians’ “thoughts and prayers” into a student-driven political movement.
As Moore wanders around these topics, the underlying message sometimes gets a little muddied. Eventually you’ll piece together all the connections, but a different editing job might have provided a better through line for the message. Though Fahrenheit 11/9’s marketing may focus a lot on Trump, Moore is careful to show that removing him will not suddenly create Utopian conditions as many of the underlying problems were baked into the system for generations. Moore believes in the promise of America, but believes its citizens have to actively work to achieve those goals.