Opening Credits and 9/11 Sequence:
LIONS GATE FILMS AND IFC FILMS AND THE FELLOWSHIP ADVENTURE GROUP PRESENT
Donald Rumsfeld: Do you suppose he’s pretty confident on those numbers on Iraqi security forces?
A DOG EAT DOG FILMS PRODUCTION
MUSIC: JEFF GIBBS
ARCHIVAL PRODUCER: CARL DEAL
CAMERA: MIKE DESJARLAIS; SOUND: FRANCISCO LATORRE
EDITORS: KURT ENGFEHR, CHRISTOPHER SEWARD, T. WOODY RICHMAN
CO-PRODUCERS: JEFF GIBBS, KURT ENGFEHR
John Ashcroft: Make me look young. Yeah, I’ve got a little, sort of air noise. Yeah, just don’t turn it up too much. I don’t want it to blow my head off.
SUPERVISING PRODUCER: TIA LESSIN
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: HARVEY WEINSTEIN, BOB WEINSTEIN, AGNES MENTRE
PRODUCERS: JIM CZARNECKI, KATHLEEN GLYNN
WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY MICHAEL MOORE
Newscaster: We have something that has happened here at the World Trade Center. We noticed a flame and an awful lot of smoke.
Michael Moore: On September 11th, 2001, nearly 3000 people, including a colleague of mine, Bill Weems, were killed in the largest foreign attack ever on American soil. The targets were the financial and military headquarters of the United States.
Girl: If anyone has any idea, or they’ve seen him or knows where he is, to call us. He’s got two little babies, two little babies.
Deceptions: No actual deceptions. Just some cheap shots.
As the opening credits roll, we are treated to a series of images of Bush Administration officials preparing for interviews or speeches, having microphones attached, having their hair combed, and talking to people off camera. It is part of Moore’s effort to make Bush and those around him seem somehow vaguely ridiculous—as if serious people would never behave this way before going on camera.
Following the credits is certainly the most inadvertently telling directorial move in the film. The only way that Moore’s absurd conspiracy theories could make sense is if we simply ignore the realities of the world that American leaders have to confront. We would have to close our eyes, for instance, to the attacks of September 11, 2001. And that is exactly what Moore does. Although he shows much explicit and painful footage of human suffering from Iraq later in the film, he chooses to portray the terrorist attacks of September 11th with a black screen, and only sound. He literally closes his eyes, and ours, to those events, and expects us to understand what follows without having seen them. The horror and suffering of the attacks are not shown, lest they lead us to understand, even a little, why a response was required.
Fahrenheit presents a powerful segment on the September 11 attacks. There is no narration, and the music is dramatic yet tasteful. The visuals are reaction shots from pedestrians, as they gasp with horrified astonishment.
Moore has been criticized for using the reaction shots as a clever way to avoid showing the planes hitting the buildings, and some of the victims falling to their deaths. Even if this is true, the segment still effectively evokes the horror and outrage that every decent human being still feels about September 11.
But as New York’s former Mayor Edward Koch reported, Moore says, “I don’t know why we are making so much of an act of terror. It is three times more likely that you will be struck by lightning than die from an act of terror.” If there is some additional context which would explain Moore’s remarks, he has not supplied such context on his website. It seems unlikely that Moore’s “war room” is unaware of the highly critical review written by former NYC Mayor Koch.
Moore’s first public comment about the September 11 attacks was to complain that too many Democrats rather than Republicans had been killed: “If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who did not vote for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes’ destination of California–these were places that voted against Bush!” (The quote was originally posted as a “Mike’s Message” on Moore’s website on September 12, but was removed not long after. Among the many places where Moore’s quote has been repeated is The New Statesman, a leftist British political magazine.)
A person might feel great personal sympathy for the victim of a lightning strike, but the same person might feel that, overall, the “lightning problem” is not worth making a big fuss over. Fahrenheit presents September 11 as a terrible tragedy (in which Moore lost one a professional colleague, and many other people lost loved ones), and as something worth making a big fuss. On this latter point, Fahrenheit’s purported view does not appear to be the same as Moore’s actual view.
Moore was not the first director to black out the 9/11 attack:
Then, lifting the technique of “21 Grams” director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s segment of the “September 11” omnibus, the horrors of the day are heard over a black screen. (Moore has been praised repeatedly for this approach with very few references to Inarritu’s initial authorship).
Alert critics will doubtless point out its artistic flaws. For example, its most moving sequence which features audio from the World Trade Center attacks played over a black screen is a direct ripoff of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s 11-minute segment in the 2003 film “9/11/01”
OUR CURRENT PRESIDENT is getting ready for his close-up. He isn’t on air yet, so instead of playing to the camera, he’s demonstrating what might be his day-to-day vision: a vacant stare into the empty distance. The lack of expression is eerily familiar – it recalls the uncanny impression of a mannequin offered by his father in Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway’s documentary Feed.
Yes, the opening credits of Fahrenheit 9/11 stare into the “steely blue eyes with no warmth in them” (to quote Morrissey) of George W. Bush; Feed-ing more than once on Bush’s unscripted moments, Michael Moore later catches sight of his subject’s “humorless smile” March 19, 2003. Seconds before addressing the nation about the bombing of Iraq, Bush sizes up his global audience with a self-satisfied, contemptuous smirk. The man who will soon hide behind the grave-faced political mask looks like a jerk.
:: E X I T L I N K S ::
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