I'll admit, I was worried.
Worried that, living as I do behind the Orange Curtain (where both Nixon and Reagan bootstrapped their power) that I would be the only one in the theater for the local opening of Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11.
Worried that Moore had nipped a bit too much of his own Champion of the Common Folk flavored Kool-aid and had produced, not a telling witness of corruption, war profiteering, and neo-facist power grabs but a histrionic screed that would only further polarize an already divided country. Inflamatory but ultimately impotent and dismissable.
My worries were unfounded. In fact, nothing about my trip to see Moore's latest film matched up with my expectations. I didn't expect the theater to be packed to the last seat; it was. I didn't expect to be deeply effected emotionally; I was. Most of all, I wasn't expecting to experience a sense of community and catharsis that reinvigorated my belief in cinema as an artform-- I did.
Don't go to Farenheit 9/11 expecting a bloodlessly objective presentation of the facts-- you won't find it. Nor are you likely learn anything new. The nuts and bolts of the Bush administration's single-minded intent to invade and plunder Iraq long before 9/11 and its subsequent Orwellian bullying and sleight-of-hand to make that war happen at all costs are better and more thoroughly documented elsewhere. No, here, as in all of his films, Moore presents his portraits of the people involved. Names and dates matter, but only insofar as they reveal the moral and personal character of the players.
It is under this light of human conscience that the real heroes and villians of the war in Iraq are revealed: on the one side are the priveleged children of oil and their functionaries; on the other are the middle and lower classes with whose sweat and blood that Black Gold is actually purchased. Or, in short, the Bushes, bin Ladens, and House of Saud on one side, and you and I (and our counterparts in the streets of Iraq) on the other. It re-draws the lines between "us" and "them" and counts our current top-level leaders as clearly among the "thems".
So, given this rather volatile position, how can I explain the sense of catharsis and communal bonding that I felt in the theater yesterday? Surely, based on conversations overheard before the doors opened, we represented a broad mix of political views, ages, and social backgrounds, so it wasn't just a self-congratulatory cry of "hurray for us!". If not that, then what? I honestly don't know. Perhaps, again, it is the sense of conscience that Moore brings to his work. That moral subtext that allows us to forgive his occasionally adolescent jack-in-the-box interviewing tactics because it is apparent that dignity and truth are his eventual goals. I don't know, I'm just not sure. However, the same or similar reactions are being reported among audiences from all over the US, and that, in itself makes this an important movie to see.
Don't assume that you have this movie all figured out ahead of time. You don't. Go see it for yourself and check your preconceptions at the door.
ps: I wouldn't feel right in recommending this movie without at least mentioning the fact that there are some very graphic sequences of war and other violence. I might gleefully line up with all the other popcorn munchers to see the latest F/X-driven splattery horror flick, but I feel deeply poisoned when I see real people actually die on camera. If you are same, come equipped with the knowlege that people really die in this film and be ready snap your eyes elsewhere for a few seconds a couple of times during its run.