Everybody knows Michael Moore. After the success and Oscar of Bowling for Columbine and the media hype for him and the film, he looms large as a documentary film-maker. Even George Bush and Congress members recognize him immediately. Not that Mr Bush will want to see much of him, because this is a highly (highly) critical portrait of the president, his initially care-less administration and the aftermath of 9/11 leading to the terrifying of the American people about terrorist threats and the decision to invade Iraq. A very large agenda for a two hour film.
It is engrossing. While many might criticize Moore's stances and his particular bias, there is a great deal of information in the film which needs to be considered, not ignored or dismissed. The images of the election results of 2000, Congress protests without any Senator signing speeches as required, the long vacations of the president up to August 2001, his initial inactivity on hearing the news of the September 11th crashes, the business links with the Saudi royal family, the evacuation of the Bin Laden relatives on Sept 13th, 2001, raise all kinds of questions about the president. When the film moves to the creation of a terror atmosphere during 2001-2002, Moore gives evidence, quotes media programs, interviews people on the street.
Finally, Iraq. Familiar material by now but telling nonetheless. Had the news about the torture come out while Moore was making his film, there would have been some more fairly devastating material. As it is, he moves towards the more personal, the loss of American life. He visits his home town of Flint and talks with some of the bereaved.
One caveat. Moore lets himself down concerning the coalition against Iraq. He offers some visual jokes mentioned countries like Palau and Morocco who joined but there is nothing about the UK except one send-up image of Tony Blair. There is nothing about Spain, the opposition of France, Germany or Russia or the situation with United Nations resolutions. This would have given much more depth to his treatment of the war - or does Moore confine himself to Americans only?
When released, this film could have a powerful influence on people making up their minds in the US for the November 2004 elections.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.