With Gun Culture In His Sights

Submitted by Matthew Arnoldi on Tue, 11/05/2002 - 12:21

With the news still fresh in most people’s minds of the horror caused in Washington by a crazed sniper, it seems as if Michael Moore’s hard-hitting Bowling for Colombine has arrived with impeccable timing. 

Documentary filmmaker, fearless campaigner, Michael Moore is America’s answer to Roger Cook, a man who tirelessly asks the right questions to those that expect an easy interview and find themselves on the end of a line of questioning that searingly calls for truth. He’s a man with heart who isn’t afraid to look at the madness in America from a global perspective. 

Michael’s currently in London, preparing for a one-man show, and promoting the release of his latest film. Bowling for Colombine picked up a Special Jury Prize in Cannes earlier in the year, its also just won an audience prize at a film festival in Chicago. Mixing early 50’s footage of pro-gun adverts, with interviews with those who survived the horrifying massacre at Colombine High School in Littleton Colorado, Moore’s attack is always powerful but angrily heartfelt as he conducts a personal campaign against the Charlton Heston-led National Rifle Association for the sickness that encouraging a gun-culture when senseless massacres are commonplace. Also in his sights are supermarkets like K-Mart who freely supply bullets knowing that bullets from K-Mart almost certainly were used in one of the massacres. He even chillingly exposes a bank that gives away free guns to those that open a bank account with them. No wonder he says, with actions like these, that in America, people end up killing each other. 

"With Roger & Me, I was focusing on just one town and the company that destroyed this community. Bowling for Colombine is about something much larger, about an entire society gone mad by arming itself with over a quarter of a billion guns under the beds at home." 

Exposing warped youngsters producing guides like "The Anarchist’s Cookbook" and comparing the differences between Canadians and Americans and the interlinked difference in the number of gun-related murders committed in the States (compared with other nations), Moore traces back the desire for guns to an inherent fear that spread when the first pilgrims arrived in America. An hilarious animated sequence in the film neatly encapsulates his take on history.

Moore was inspired to make the film having witnessed both the Colombine massacre and the Oklahoma bombing by Timothy McVeigh in 1995. "I broached the subject to my producer friend Michael Donovan I remember in a Manhattan café and before I’d even finished the sentence, he was saying ‘let’s do it!’ " 

What is particularly refreshing about Bowling for Colombine is that Moore treats his audience like adults, audiences he feels should be allowed to think for themselves. "People don’t go to movies to be beaten up or lectured to,’ he declares, ‘they like to be challenged and certainly entertained, so I wanted to entertain but also ask the hard questions at the same time." 

America in Michael’s eyes hasn’t changed a great deal for the better over the years. "I could have made this film 10 years ago as easily as now because ultimately it’s not about Colombine or even about guns. America was the same place then as it is now. Its about our culture of fear and how that fear has led to acts of violence both domestically and internationally." 

Moore’s anger throughout is a smouldering furnace of intent. He’s calm and collected as he confronts the PR bosses of K-Mart or challenges Charlton Heston in his own home but memorably one of the finest cinematic moments in the movies this year, has to be when he leaves a simple picture of a young girl propped up against a wall at Heston’s home having exposed a stammering ageing actor for the fool he is to promote an organisation that encourages the ownership of guns. 

"I was told that as you get older, you get more mellow,’ muses Moore quietly, ‘but I’m going to be 48 next week and you know for me ‘Bowling for Colombine’ is the most provocative work I’ve ever made." 

Bowling for Colombine will be shown on Sunday 10 November at 6 pm and on Monday 11 November at 1 pm, at the Odeon West End 2 in Leicester Square. Contact the RLFF box office for tickets. 

The film opens nationwide on release a week later.