“What if the kids at Columbine were here today? What would you say to them?
I wouldn’t say anything. I’d listen to them, which is what nobody else did.”
Michael Moore is an interesting one. While often hailed as the greatest documentarian of our time with innovative techniques and a real sense of comedy, his critics will call him a self-important jerk who cherry-picks his evidence and makes misleading assessments of America. While there may be a stronger argument for that latter bit in some of his films, I find Bowling for Columbine to be a smart, genuine look at gun control, along with American society as a whole, and consider it one of his finest works.
Just a few years after the Columbine shooting, Moore is talking about not only what caused the incident (and what assuredly did not cause the incident) but also American culture in relation to violence and an analysis of sensationalism in the media. He speaks to Columbine victims, gun lovers, gun haters, and even the head of the NRA to try and find out what makes America different. Why is gun violence so much more prominent with Americans than with our democratic friends abroad.
As always, Moore brings his trademark gotcha style and use of comedic irony to make some serious commentary. Whether you are convinced by his arguments or not, I think you have to admire Moore for the actions he takes and the creative ways he goes about capturing his films. Some people say it’s all an act – but I’m not convinced. The passion of this man when confronting institutions, especially those in his own home town, makes these kinds of films personal for him and more enjoyable to watch.
My favorite scene, one of the most well-known from the film, is when Moore brings several Columbine victims to the nearby Kmart and requests that they stop selling live ammunition. This type of social action is relatively common, bringing the victims right to the institution leaders, but this time it actually works. He returns within a week to find that Kmart has decided to phase out the selling of live ammunition in its store. You can’t help but applaud Moore for changing an institution in a big way and capturing it right there on camera. It’s what makes these documentaries exciting.
I can see how Moore’s tone is often called elitist and his characterization of the opposing side can be seen as offensive or unrepresentative of reality. I think those are valid critiques, but they really don’t deter from Moore’s point in this movie. He proves throughout the film to be a second amendment advocate himself, and he’s really tackling institutions and stigmas rather than just some political side, which gives him a broader appeal. He cares about his craft, and it shows, certainly making this film one of the most influential documentaries in recent history.
Films Left to Watch: 999