Fahrenheit 11/9 first look: Michael Moore reclaims American populism

Galvanised by the election of a demagogic monster to the seat of power, Michael Moore places the blame, prospects the consequences and exhorts the resistance.

Tom Charity
Updated:

Web exclusive

Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 11/9

Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 11/9

You could make the case that all Michael Moore’s films are the same movie, unspooling in instalments when the time is right. He’s scarcely troubled to come up with a new title for his latest dispatch from the front lines of America’s ongoing war with itself, perhaps in the hopes of duplicating his biggest box office hit. And that would be welcome. Because while some of Moore’s shtick feels old hat (showing up at the a party HQ with a pair of handcuffs to enact a citizen’s arrest) there is a renewed urgency about his message.

11/9 was the day the Donald won the White House, an eventuality so far-fetched that even Fox News didn’t believe it possible. Among the pundits almost the only notable to call it correctly was one Michael Moore.

The new film begins on that miserable evening (even Trump looked shell-shocked) and asks “How the **** did that happen?”

Moore points the finger at Gwen Stefani (you will have to see the movie to see why), mentions the Russians and James Comey precisely once, and spends only a few minutes more blaming the networks and the news media. But Moore has another villain in his sights, more powerful and more culpable: the Democratic Party. Moore was a Bernie Sanders supporter and rehashes the party’s dubious internal system of vote rigging which deprived the Bern of running Hillary a close second at the party coronation (excuse me, convention). None of this is new, any more than the easy potshots at Trump’s sexualised fondness for his daughter Ivanka or the rehash of his racist rhetoric: both topics have scrutinised ad nauseam by the mainstream media.

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

Fortunately Moore is on far more compelling ground when he turns his attention closer to home, to Flint, Michigan and the poison water scandal precipitated by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, a CEO politician in the Trump mould. The details of this stomach-churning debacle will be new to many, and Moore’s anger at the betrayal of his home town sears the screen. When, late in the day, President Obama rides in to the rescue (or so everyone imagines) the themes of the film come into pin-sharp focus.

Moore looks older and craggier these days, but he also dedicates a good amount of footage to the new breed of ‘insurgent’ activists hoping to shake up the Democrats in the next electoral cycle, and to the inspiring young survivors of the Parkland shooting. Two decades after Columbine mass killings are even more deeply engraved in the American psyche. Yet as Moore points out, though you would hardly know it, polls show the US is overwhelmingly a liberal country on all manner of issues including gun control, if only its democracy wasn’t distorted by money, gerrymandering and the Electoral College. Flawed as it is, it’s also fragile, and never more vulnerable than now. That’s what makes Fahrenheit 11/9 so powerful. It is a call to stand up and represent, a call that Michael Moore has answered consistently throughout these troubling times.

 

Access the digital edition

Back to the top

See something different

Subscribe now for exclusive offers and the best of cinema.
Hand-picked.