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Sonia Nettnin: Review - Fahrenheit 9/11

Film Review: FAHRENHEIT 09/11

By Sonia Nettnin

Michael Moore’s FAHRENHEIT 09/11 is a dramatic examination of George W. Bush’s words and actions before and during his presidency. Also, his documentary investigates the business relations among the Bush family, their friends and the Saudi royal family.

At the film’s helm as narrator, Moore takes viewers on a journey through time and across the world. With his findings, he creates a sequence of events. Along the way, he provides commentary.

He flashes back to media coverage of election 2000. Most of the networks (except Fox) projected Al Gore won Florida. At the election certification, the rules of the U.S code state if there are objections to the results; signatures are needed from the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives - nine African-Americans and one Asian-American – put their objections in writing. However, the required signature of one senator was absent. The flashback arouses the feelings of illegitimacy present at the time of Bush’s inauguration.

Prior to 09/11, the film delves into Bush’s use of his time. For the 09/11 tragedy, Moore uses sound. Next, he focuses on peoples’ reactions. Then, he shows a flurry of paper-ashes in the air. He expresses the emotions associated with the event through string music. At the beginning of the terrorist attacks, Bush sits in a classroom. For several minutes, he holds the book, My Pet Goat. His facial expressions elicit statements and questions from Moore, who travels to Washington D.C.

While Moore stands in front of the Saudi Embassy, he asks questions about Saudi investments in American equities on Wall Street; and how it affects the U.S. economy.

Despite the seriousness of his findings, Moore lightens the movie with persuasive humor and sarcasm.

When he compares the $400,000 gained as president to the $1.4 billion Bush’s family and friends acquired over three decades, Moore says: “Who’s your daddy?”

His questions and remarks point to conflicts of interest, since business and political matters appear together.

Moore says James R. Bath invested in George W. Bush’s company; and that Bath invested in businesses for the bin Ladens. In 2000, Moore acquired Bush’s military records. Bath’s name was on the records. In January 2004, Moore called Bush a deserter. Moreover, he says the White House released Bush’s military records, in response to his accusation. They blacked out Bath’s name. Of course, the black mark raised Moore’s eyebrow, which led to more findings.

The film illustrates that war is big business. “I’m a war president,” says President George W. Bush. According to Senator Jim McDermott, who is a psychiatrist also, the U.S. war on terror initiated fear in people. It created “…an aura of endless threat.”

Even though there was no link between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden; and no WMDs were found; the long-term plan was war. On March 19, 2003, U.S. invades Iraq. After the bombs dropped, Moore shows footage of the consequences.

“God save us from them,” cries an Iraqi woman, after she buried five, family members. The images of civilians bring the reality of war not shown on U.S. mainstream media. Through images of the Iraqi people, Moore drives home the human beings devastated by war. After an Iraqi girl glides down a slide, the scene changes to the war itself.

Moore visits his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Lila Lipscomb enters the documentary. She reveals that Flint has an unemployment rate of 17 per cent. Moore shows the energetic Marine recruiters in a mall parking lot. Since the job opportunities of the town are grim, many men and women enlist in the armed forces. When Lipscomb’s son was in Iraq, she reads his last letter out loud. Her son’s last words lead Lipscomb to an epiphany, a realization, which changes her feelings about war and human life.

Moore is the film’s narrator, but he is an interviewer also. He reads the U.S. Patriot Act to Congressman on a loudspeaker in an ice cream truck. While Moore hands out recruitment pamphlets to a senator, he asks the senator if he would encourage his sons and daughters to enroll in the armed forces. Moore’s break in role makes him a focal point of the film. The amount of information is overwhelming, so Moore uses himself as a guide. He analyzes the concept of trust, and then shines the spotlight on himself.

For the average U.S. citizen, this film is earth shattering. It provides an all-encompassing look at the politics of world economics from Moore’s point of view. Moreover, it shows what drives rhetoric and actions. The film challenges people, regardless of their political beliefs. Moore’s research is in-depth; and he interprets the last, four years within a global context.

The satellite footage of people before live interviews is interesting. At times, what people say is at odds with their body language. Moore’s commentary is edgy, but necessary for an audacious film.

In Moore’s conclusion, he says: “War keeps society on the brink of starvation…it keeps the structure of society intact.”

This film is a must see and it is a dare.

- FAHRENHEIT 09/11 is a Lions Gate/IFC Film.


Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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