July 20, 2004

The 411 on ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’

The summer of 2004 has been a dynamite season for cinema. In any year, summer is the time to escape the heat and reality for a dose of escapism. However, one of the biggest movies of late dispenses with escapist cinematic elements in favor of a head-on collision with reality. That movie, of course, is Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Lots of people, however, would dispute the notion that “Fahrenheit 9/11” is at all based on reality. The main criticism of the anti-war documentary is that it is not balanced. The bulk of this criticism comes from those who watch Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, and who thus know all about bias. Is “Fahrenheit 9/11” biased? Yes. Is it false? No.

My suggestion is that anyone who wishes to weigh in on the issue should see the movie and compare and contrast it with what they already know and believe. “Fahrenheit 9/11” is a delicious part of a balanced breakfast; complain about the cereal only after you’ve had a bite. Disney sought to deny us the opportunity when they refused to release the film, and Ray Bradbury publicly dissed Moore for copping the title “Fahrenheit 451” from his book about suppressing information. Talk about free publicity!

I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" for the first time on July 3, an experience that exceeded my high expectations. What made the experience so special to me wasn’t so much the movie—well, that too—but the feeling I got just by being there. Like “The Passion of the Christ,” Moore’s flick is a major tug of the belief strings. But where “Passion” was a literal preaching to the choir, “Fahrenheit 9/11” aims to convert.

Lafayette didn't bother to show the film until a week after its release, when one theater figured out that the number-one film in the nation might have a few fans here. In line in front of me were a well-dressed man and a couple that looked fresh out of high school, both clad in shirts sporting Bible verses. The trio looked ready to pounce on me if I bought the wrong ticket. To my surprise, though, all three were also there for "Fahrenheit 9/11"!

In the lobby were people dressed in Uncle Sam and Statue of Liberty outfits, raising money with crafts and signature stars. This was a July 4 fundraiser for the troops, and I purchased a star from a very sweet girl. I was not the only one, proving that even critics of the war can and do support the soldiers.

I didn't expect to see the diversity of the audience that I saw; perhaps most enlightening was the presence of a number of middle-aged professionals. At first I thought they were there out of morbid curiosity; as the film progressed, however, they were often the most vocal in their approval. Everyone seemed to be there in support of the film, which I found surprising. The closest thing to opposition occurred before the film, when someone mentioned how some people had bought tickets for "Shrek 2" and then snuck into "Fahrenheit 9/11" so that Michael Moore wouldn't get paid. Amazingly, I didn’t hear one instance where anyone jeered what was being said.

Coming out of the theater, I saw people amassing and talking like never before. Whether they agreed or disagreed with certain issues, they at least were talking. Knowing that this is going on several times a day, all over the United States, is perhaps the most rewarding experience to come out of the film. Thank you, Michael. Thank you.


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