Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Michael Moore on the Trump era

Michael Moore’s new documentary film “Fahrenheit 11/9” is a mixed bag full of lots of things to present. While trying to examine how that shocking and unbelievable victory of Donald Trump happened on November 9th, 2016, the documentary attempts to make some points on the growing threat to democracy in the American society, and it also tries to remind us that it is not too late yet for the American society and its people. As trying to do these and many other things during its 2-hour running time, the documentary falters and drags at times, and the result is rather disappointing on the whole despite several strong parts worthwhile to mention.

After the opening montage sequence showing the last days of the 2016 US Presidential Election race and that unforgettable night which shocked not only US but also the whole world, Moore instantly delves into how ludicrous Trump’s US Presidential Election campaign was from the very beginning. Trump started the campaign just for increasing his popularity and consequently getting paid more for his reality TV show, but, what do you know, the result turned out to be far more successful than he might have imagined, and he gladly went along with his rising status which was unstoppable to say the least. He virtually knocked down every rival during the primary election of Republican Party, and, yes, he eventually beat Hilary Clinton even though everyone including him thought he did not have much chance.

While Moore points out many various reasons ranging from the American media which could not help but boost Trump’s rise while relentlessly badgering Clinton to Democratic Party which seriously overlooked the growing disillusionment of potential voters, he also criticizes himself for participating to some degree in facilitating the public acceptance of Trump and his blatantly unethical and illegal behaviors. For example, he once appeared with Trump on TV without throwing any hard question to Trump, and he also admits that he happened to get along a bit with Trump’s cronies such as Jared Kushner, the husband of Trump’s dear daughter Ivanka.

As observing Trump’s despotic tendency, Moore compares Trump with Rick Snyder, the current governor of Michigan who is soon going to be replaced by Gretchen Whitmer in the next year. This man also presented himself as a good businessman who can run the state government well, but, according to the documentary, he did not do anything particularly beneficial to the people of Michigan, and he has only made his many rich backers a lot richer through massive tax cuts and frequent deregulation in addition to allowing himself to have much more power and influence via new state legislations.

The biggest victim of Snyder’s state government is none other than a small city named Flint, Michigan, which was incidentally the main subject of Moore’s acclaimed documentary film “Roger & Me” (1989). For the construction of a totally unnecessary pipeline for water supply, Snyder had Flint change its source of water from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron, and the result was quite devastating. Due to the heavily polluted condition of the Flint River, the people of Flint could not drink or use tap water anymore, and many of them came to suffer serious health problems including lead poisoning.

When President Barack Obama came to Flint in May 2016, the people of Flint certainly hoped for a better situation, but, alas, he let them down to their big disappointment, and things only got worse in Flint shortly after his visit. Several abandoned areas of the city suddenly became training sites for US military without any public notice to the citizens of Flint in advance, and that further solidifies the notoriety of the city, which has been the poorest city in US.

Moore tells us that what is happening in Flint may be a mere prelude for worse things to happen in the American society, but he also shows us that there is still some hope and possibility for changes. We meet an ex-military West Virginian guy who became more politically active after coming back from Afghanistan, and we also meet other politically active figures including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who, as many of you know, is soon going to be the youngest woman to serve in Congress in the US history. In case of the Parkland School activists, who rose to prominence through their public protest against the gun problem in the American society shortly after a devastating shooting incident in their school, they are certainly ready to bring changes and fix the system, and you may admire their passion and enthusiasm.

However, Moore has growing doubt and concern over the ongoing rise of racism and fascism via the Trump Presidency, and the documentary becomes less interesting as he makes a pretty obvious argument on how the history may repeat itself as before. Sure, we should be alarmed more about Trump and his increasingly virulent influence, but Moore does not say anything particularly new about that, and I found myself checking my watch from time to time during the last 30 minutes of the documentary.

Despite its undeniably relevant social/political issues, “Fahrenheit 11/9” is less engaging compared to Moore’s recent works such as “Sicko” (2007), “Capitalism: A Love Story” (2009), “Where to Invade Next” (2015), and, of course, “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004). It could be more focused and effective in a shorter running time, so I cannot recommend it, but we can all agree at least that Moore does care about his country and its people as usual.

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