Skip to comments.Roger Ebert: (Fahrenheit) '9/11': Just the facts? (in defense of Michael Moore documentaries)
Posted on 06/21/2004 12:55:24 AM PDT by weegee
A reader writes:
"In your articles discussing Michael Moore's film 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' you call it a documentary. I always thought of documentaries as presenting facts objectively without editorializing. While I have enjoyed many of Mr. Moore's films, I don't think they fit the definition of a documentary."
That's where you're wrong. Most documentaries, especially the best ones, have an opinion and argue for it. Even those that pretend to be objective reflect the filmmaker's point of view. Moviegoers should observe the bias, take it into account and decide if the film supports it or not.
Michael Moore is a liberal activist. He is the first to say so. He is alarmed by the prospect of a second term for George W. Bush, and made "Fahrenheit 9/11" for the purpose of persuading people to vote against him.
That is all perfectly clear, and yet in the days before the film opens June 25, there'll be bountiful reports by commentators who are shocked! shocked! that Moore's film is partisan. "He doesn't tell both sides," we'll hear, especially on Fox News, which is so famous for telling both sides.
The wise French director Godard once said, "The way to criticize a film is to make another film." That there is not a pro-Bush documentary available right now I am powerless to explain. Surely, however, the Republican National Convention will open with such a documentary, which will position Bush comfortably between Ronald Reagan and God. The Democratic convention will have a wondrous film about John Kerry. Anyone who thinks one of these documentaries is "presenting facts objectively without editorializing" should look at the other one.
The pitfall for Moore is not subjectivity, but accuracy. We expect him to hold an opinion and argue it, but we also require his facts to be correct. I was an admirer of his previous doc, the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine," until I discovered that some of his "facts" were wrong, false or fudged.
In some cases, he was guilty of making a good story better, but in other cases (such as his ambush of Charlton Heston) he was unfair, and in still others (such as the wording on the plaque under the bomber at the Air Force Academy) he was just plain wrong, as anyone can see by going to look at the plaque.
Because I agree with Moore's politics, his inaccuracies pained me, and I wrote about them in my Answer Man column. Moore wrote me that he didn't expect such attacks "from you, of all people." But I cannot ignore flaws simply because I agree with the filmmaker. In hurting his cause, he wounds mine.
Now comes "Fahrenheit 9/11," floating on an enormous wave of advance publicity. It inspired a battle of the titans between Disney's Michael Eisner and Miramax's Harvey Weinstein. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It has been rated R by the MPAA, and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo has signed up as Moore's lawyer, to challenge the rating. The conservative group Move America Forward, which successfully bounced the mildly critical biopic "The Reagans" off CBS and onto cable, has launched a campaign to discourage theaters from showing "Fahrenheit 9/11."
The campaign will amount to nothing and disgraces Move America Forward by showing it trying to suppress disagreement instead of engaging it. The R rating may stand; there is a real beheading in the film, and only fictional beheadings get the PG-13. Disney and Miramax will survive.
Moore's real test will come on the issue of accuracy. He can say whatever he likes about Bush, as long as his facts are straight. Having seen the film twice, I saw nothing that raised a flag for me, and I haven't heard of any major inaccuracies. When Moore was questioned about his claim that Bush unwisely lingered for six or seven minutes in that Florida classroom after learning of the World Trade Center attacks, Moore was able to reply with a video of Bush doing exactly that.
I agree with Moore that the presidency of George W. Bush has been a disaster for America. In writing that, I expect to get the usual complaints that movie critics should keep their political opinions to themselves. But opinions are my stock in trade, and is it not more honest to declare my politics than to conceal them? I agree with Moore, and because I do, I hope "Fahrenheit 9/11" proves to be as accurate as it seems.
Copyright © Chicago Sun-Times Inc.
The wise French director Godard once said, "The way to criticize a film is to make another film." That there is not a pro-Bush documentary available right now I am powerless to explain.
(A) How can a "pro-Bush" documentary answer the charges in Mr. Moore's film when no filmmaker has seen it with enough time to make a rebuttal film?
(B) What conservative theater chains are there that would book a "pro-Bush" documentary? Count out Angelika, Landmark, and all of the university run theaters.
(C) Campaign Finance Reform has seen to it that a financially well-off Republican can't even BUY the airtime to air his rebuttal if he filmed it. (with Michael Moore's film being released so close to the election).
Yeah, Rog, this is some level playing field.
This film needs to be mentioned in the same breath as "Triumph Of The Will" and "The Eternal Jew". It serves the same end and is purely propaganda.
Ray Bradbury does not like the fact that Michael Moore has hijacked the name of his book and movies "Fahrenheit 451". He called Mr. Moore a "screwed a**hole" and a "horrible person". Michael Moore does not oppose totalitarian regimes, he unwittingly(?) gives them aid and comfort.
Well, I will give Ebert one bit of praise. Everyone in the media should be as open about what their biases are.
If Dan Rather started every broadcast by saying, "I'm a left winger and you should expect to see my biases reflected in the upcoming news broadcast", most of my compliants about the Democrats' media would go away.
That being said, a pressure campaign such as the one Ebert is so critical of is hardly that unusual in America. Remember the NAACP boycott? Remember the Left's continuing efforts to silence talk radio? The Clintons going after the VRWC?
Finally, how would Ebert know if there are mistakes in Moore's film? Does he regularly read non-leftwing news sources? I would strongly guess no...
Ebert is correct, but in a way he might not realise. A Hollyweird Documentary is nothing but crap.
Et tu, Roger
Hitler made some propaganda films, as well.....
When ideologues like Moore produce make-believe and put it up as a documentary, it's a head shaker.
These are by general consent two of the best documentaries ever made. But because they reflect the ideology of a monstrous movement, they pose a classic question of the contest between art and morality: Is there such a thing as pure art, or does all art make a political statement?" -Roger Ebert THE WONDERFUL HORRIBLE LIFE OF LENI RIEFENSTAHL
Forget the film. Time to boycott Ebert!!! I had no idea he was such a leftie. I guess I should have known, you get that close to Hollyweird and it rubs off. I always had the mistaken idea that he was some sort of moderate independent. No more reading his reviews!!!!
You say that but I'm STILL looking for the damn disaster. 9/11 was a disaster for sure but Bush didn't do that and the French being pissed at us is just plain luck, so Mr. Egbert when you make a statement like the above back it up or you end up being even less than MM. MM at least threw some lies together to try to convince people of his view, you didn't even do that.
Think they have ever bother to recognize a porn star this way? The woman was a propagandist for the Nazis. Some say that she "had no choice". Fritz Lang was the first choice for the job. He refused and came to America (he even left his pro-Hitler wife behind).
Obviously he did eventually get around to reading some conservative website someplace because he does acknowledge that it caused him to revise his opinion of Bowling For Columbine (did it change his mind enough to go from thumbs up to down though?).
Mr. Moore "takes on" President Bush for the departure of some members of the (large) bin Laden family and they have long ago denounced him. Ted Kazenski's brother turned him in; just because you are related does not mean that you share politics or extremism.
Richard Clarke was the National Security adviser at the time of 9-11. He did not raise a red flag over the decision to let them go (he cleared it with the FBI). How is this is "Bush's" scandal? Mr. Moore, I'm sure, will tell us in his movie.
Pop quiz, no web searching:
How many people left the US when the planes were "grounded"?
Did you include border crossings (by car, foot, boat)?
How many people FLEW out of the US?
How many of those people were of Middle Eastern descent?
How many people of other nationalities left? Where were they from?
How many flights did it take to coordinate the departure of the "bin Laden" relatives? How many other flights were there? What other sort of official activity was going on when people were told "flights were grounded"?
My point is that people hear this one detail but they aren't given ANY corresponding information to tell if it was out of line. Start with a faulty understanding of the situation and it can easily be blown out of proportion.
Mr. Moore is alleging that they were given "preferential" treatment because of a Bush-Bin Laden connection.
Mr. Moore has done more to show to me his sympathies with terrorists than the bin Laden family has done.
(April 14, 2004): The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?....I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle...the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.
People who kidnap Americans and decapitate them on video are terrorists. They seek to strike terror in the hearts of people. They kill innocent civilians. They have bombed the United Nations building, they have bombed the oil pipeline. They have killed many US soldiers with land mines (which the well intentioned left has told us should be globally banned).
I have not heard Michael Moore distance himself from any of the actions of his "minutemen".
Ebert's really "powerless to explain" that? Give me a break.
Its Los Angeles, 1977, and adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) meets Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a well-endowed dishwasher in a nightclub. Jack recruits Eddie to be his newest star and Eddie, hungry for fame, quickly agrees, changing his name to Dirk Diggler. Soon Dirk is the hottest star in the porn industry, alongside Rollergirl (Heather Graham), a high school dropout who never removes her roller skates, and Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), the veteran star who pines for the son she's not allowed to visit. On the fringes, Little Bill (William H. Macy) fumes while his wife cheats on him in public, and Buck Swope (Don Cheadle) tries to escape the stigma of being a porn actor. The good times roll, but before long Dirk falls victim to the pressures of stardom and a drug habit that ruins his career while Jack struggles with porns conversion from film to cheaper videotapes. Director Paul Thomas Andersons breakthrough film is an exhilarating ride along the underbelly of the 1970s inspired by the films of Altman and Scorsese, featuring colorful camera work, a dynamic soundtrack, and excellent performances from the entire cast, most notably Reynolds in an Oscar-nominated comeback role.
"I have not heard Michael Moore distance himself from any of the actions of his "minutemen".
We've just read that Ebert is aligned with this thinking.
They broke ground in film. They helped to end the practice of local censor boards in major cities.
The treatment they gave Leni Riefenstahl shows that you did not have to work in the Hollywood "studio system" to get recognized for this honor.
I hear that there was a reasonably pro-Bush documentary awhile back (Travels with George) that didn't turn out to be the "get Bush" slam that so many liberals were hoping for. I have not seen the film and the director's mom is a liberal reporter I think so I am just going on the words of other people that it is "pro-Bush". How about saying that one was "moderate Bush" and Moore's film is rabidly "anti Bush"? A "pro Bush" film should make no mistakes in its presentation of what the perspective is, we would clearly know that it is "pro Bush".
Maybe moreso than Ebert asking "where is the pro Bush film" he should be asking "where is the anti Kerry film"? I'm sure that the veterans groups have a lot of dirt to spill. Heck, where are the revival screenings at colleges and museums of Winter Soldier showing Kerry's post-service Vietnam War activities? How soon after Kerry is elected will these become "fair game" for the liberal institutions to show us? Check online, you will find copies of this film at a lot of college libraries.
For someone who makes so much of his few months in Vietnam, we certainly aren't hearing much about "what he did during the war".
Yes, it's like watching Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph des Willens or D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation.
Some consider them to be documentaries.
9/11 was never repeated because of President George Bush.
(So much for Ebert's judgment.)
Agreed. I definitely disagree with his opinions & political views, but I respect anyone who is upfront and honest about them.
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