San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ Heats Screens, Tests Patriotism

IN a break from The TicoTimes’ normally aggressivelyconservative editorial tack, I’mrisking my job and the readers’hatred to give Michael Moore’spoignant cinematic attack onthe Bush administration athumbs up.The word “controversy”has been run against the documentary“Fahrenheit 9/11” somany times it has become listlessand a bit limp, but thisreview will not try to sidestepit. It is integral, and actually the film would be nothingif not incendiary. Even here in the reporters’ office ofthis community newspaper where songbirds whistlefrom the power lines outside the window and the editorsskip from room to room sprinkling rose petals on ourdesks, a 30-second exchange between two reporterserupted into a spat that was finally settled by the decisionto quit talking about it.There are two reasons the film does that to people –one, that it contains real footage that speaks for itself,and two, that many people don’t want to see at leastsome of it. However, even if you only read People magazineand watch the E channel, you have heard at leastsomething about all of the points touched on in the film.Its power is not in its news value, rather, it’s in theinstant personalization of each subject. The grief of awoman in Flint, Mich., whose son’s body came back ina U.S. flag-draped casket, is as immediate as the footageof roads strewn with the bodies of charred Iraqi childrenand other bystanders to a bombing.MOORE shows the facts that Americans have tolive with by splicing the words of President George W.Bush and his officials in his administration with scenesthat contradict their messages.In one sequence, stomach-curdling scenes of Iraqistossing small, charred bodies into the back of a pick-upafter a U.S. missile attack, a man carrying his wife’sbody in his arms and a woman cursing the United Statesfor the murder of her family and the destruction of herneighborhood are interspersed with U.S. Secretary ofDefense Donald Rumsfeld informing Americans thattoday’s missile guidance systems are sophisticated andaccurate.Moore shows footage of prisoner abuse, albeit light,compared to the photos that made front pages recently,he said was taken before that scandal shamed the U.S.military.The film does not drag the military through the mud,rather, it sides with the soldiers, showing that the bulk ofthe armed forces are men and women from America’spoor towns and inner cities. One of the finest points ofthe movie is that the members of the national guard,many of whom are now serving in Iraq, ask only thatthey be kept from harm unless absolutely necessary. Apoint sharpened by the reminder that the war in Iraq wasnot sold to American voters on the same terms for whichit was really waged.REGARDLESS of the whether we agree that thewar was strategically beneficial in terms of control ofenergy production, or making certain people rich, oreven if we agree that such control or enrichment meritsa war, only the most politically naïve will still say thatAmerica’s leaders told the truth about why they orderedthe attack. The documentary proves that Britney Spears,at least, is one of them.Though mostly directed against the Bush administrationand the war in Iraq, the film takes a couple ofdigs at the Democrats: Once when black voters inFlorida who were excluded from the 2000 presidentialelection could not get a member of the Senate to backtheir claims, and again when Democrats by and largerolled over before the onslaught of warmongeringbefore the Iraq invasion.Jo Stewart, president of Democrats Abroad in CostaRica, who saw the film at the special pre-screening lastweek, said, “They deserved what they got.”She also said that she doesn’t know where he gotsome of that footage.“The scary thing was the point he made about howyou build up fear. He did it well with how he cut it.” Thecutting of the film was one of the talking points leavingthe screening, that Moore left out things that did not supporthis arguments.“But he made his argument very well,” Stewart said,“that there was no Al Qaeda and Iraq connection, and nojustification for the war.”I HAVE only two complaints about the film. It straddlesa line between entertainment and journalism, andperhaps would have been better if it had allied itselfmore strongly with journalism. Moore should have citedmore sources.The other criticism is that the comedy and sarcasmof the commentary, though entertaining, is at timesincongruent with the sometimes gruesome, sometimesheart breaking real-life scenes he shows us. Perhaps theonly commentary needed is the words of the leadersthemselves over the scenes of the destruction theycaused, and the only comedy needed is the verbal bumblingof the President.Check The Tico Times movie listings for locationsand showtimes.

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