Bowling for Columbine
Bowling for Columbine is a film directed by and starring Michael Moore. It won an Academy Award in the category of documentary film and has received widespread praise as well as vehement criticism. It opened on October 11, 2002.
|Table of contents|
4 Awards and Nominations
5 See also
7 External links
Taking the Columbine High School massacre as a starting point, the film is a personal and artistic exploration of the nature of violence in the United States consisting of clips from gun advertisementss, satirical animations about North American history and Moore's discussions with various people, including Charlton Heston and Marilyn Manson. Moore seeks to answer, in his own unique, muckraking style, the questions of why the Columbine massacre occurred, and why the United States is more violent than other democratic states, including, in particular, Germany, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and especially Canada.
Moore argues that the higher gun-related homicide rate in the United States is not due to the number of guns there, since, Moore states, Canada also has a large number of guns and yet is a less violent society. Moore then inquires, if it is not the amount of guns in American society, what else could the cause be? He tackles other possible suggestions, such as the nation's violent past in subjugating the Native Americans, but he argues that other nations with violent histories, such as Germany and Japan, nevertheless have fewer murders per capita than the United States does. He also examines American militarism, and takes a personal look at the ways that American society has a reduced "social safety net" to take care of its citizens, compared to other countries. He also explores the relationship between American racism and fear of its black population and whether this contributes to the rate of gun ownership and violence.
In the end, although he does explore various possible answers to his question, he comes to no clear answers. He does suggest that one possible cause of the problem is that Americans live in a "culture of fear" in which they are very frightened about the world around them and thus turn to guns as a source of security. He specifically pillories the media for excessive and overly dramatic coverage of violent crime as a leading cause of this "culture". However, Moore doesn't make any serious attempt to quantify fear or prove that Americans are in fact more nervous of their surroundings than citizens of other countries; though he does show that some Canadians leave their doors unlocked when they are at home.
The film title originates from the claim made by several witnesses that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two boys responsible for the Columbine High School massacre, attended their regularly scheduled bowling class early that morning, around 6:30am, before they committed the attacks at school starting about 11am. (Some school and law officials contradict that claim.) Moore suggests that it is no more unreasonable to blame their actions on bowling than to blame them on violent video games, movies, and music (during the aftermath of the shooting, many used the opportunity to denounce Marilyn Manson and The Matrix, claiming a connection between violence in the media and violence in schools).
Bowling for Columbine is the highest grossing non-music documentary of all time. With a budget of only $3,000,000, it has grossed $40,000,000 worldwide, including $21,575,207 in the United States. The documentary has also broken box office records internationally, becoming the highest-grossing documentary of all time in the U.K, Australia, and Austria.
The film is highly controversial, and some of its critics have gone so far to call for a revocation of the Academy Award because they do not consider Bowling for Columbine a legitimate documentary. The film's defenders, on the other hand, view these criticisms as symptomatic of the emotionality that characterizes the gun rights debate.
There has been criticism from both pro-gun and anti-gun groups. The gun-rights lobby feels that Moore unfairly portrayed lawful gun-owners in the USA as a violence-prone group. Anti-gun lobby argue that it is the higher rates of gun ownership, especially handgun ownership, that are to blame for the higher gunshot homicide rate in the US.
In particular, high gun ownership in Canada and some other countries is mainly related to hunting rifles, which are stringently regulated by the government, and mostly owned by people in small towns and rural areas. By contrast, gun deaths in the U.S. are related to handguns in inner cities. Of all industrialized nations, it is the easiest to legally purchase a handgun in the United States. In Bowling for Columbine, Moore claims that it is easy to buy guns in Canada too, and "proves" this by buying some ammunition; in reality, the purchase of a hunting rifle is well regulated in Canada, and obtaining a handgun is substantially more difficult. Critics say that Moore failed to relate guns to gun-related crime.
In the film, Moore berates the American media for creating a culture of fear in the American public. Many of his detractors argue that his own movie is geared towards creating fear of gun owners and of the government, and accuse him of hypocrisy on those grounds.
In addition some have claimed that scenes that appear spontaneous in the documentary, are in fact carefully staged. The same was said about his earlier documentary, Roger & Me.
Columbine High School massacre survivor Mark Taylor, who along with fellow survivor Richard Castaldo formed the main drama of the segment in which Kmart is pressured to remove bullets from their shelf, has since said that he was tricked by Moore into doing the segment. In an interview with the Canyon Courier in June 2003, Taylor said Moore "screwed me over" and "completely used us to make a buck." Taylor claims Moore tricked him and Castaldo into appearing in the segment, describing it to them as a talk with the Kmart chairman about enforcing policies on selling ammunition to youth and improving gun safety, rather than the confrontation it turned out to be—"I had no idea what Moore's agenda was. And he had an agenda. He had it all planned out, completely."
Critics also claim that Moore makes misleading statements in the movie. For example, Moore conducted an interview with Evan McCollum, Director of Communications at a Lockheed-Martin plant near Columbine, and asked him, "So you don't think our kids say to themselves, gee, dad goes off to the factory every day - he builds missiles. These are weapons of mass destruction. What's the difference between that mass destruction and the mass destruction over at Columbine High School?" McCollum responded: "I guess I don't see that specific connection because the missiles that you're talking about were built and designed to defend us from somebody else who would be aggressors against us." The comment then cuts to a montage of questionable American foreign policy decisions, with the intent to contradict McCollum's statement, and cite examples of how the United States has, in Moore's view, frequently been the aggressor nation.
McCollum has later clarified that the plant he works for does not still produce missiles (the plant manufactured parts for intercontinental ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead in the mid-1980s), but rockets used for launching satellites which Aviation Week describes as being used "for the rapid targeting of Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles involved in Iraqi strikes". Indeed, the plant was also used to take former nuclear missiles out of service, converting decommissioned Titan missiles into launch vehicles for these targeting satellites. Since the interview was conducted in the plant, and on the backdrop of these rockets, critics charge that Moore was misleading his viewers by implying (without saying so) that this particular plant still produced missiles. Some critics have also incorrectly claimed that Moore actually makes that statement. However, he does not, which is why McCollum does not balk at his statement in the interview.
Awards and Nominations
- 2002 Winner, Special Prize, Cannes Film Festival
- 2003 Winner, Cesar Award, Best Foreign Film
- 2003 Winner, International Documentary Association (IDA), - Best Documentary of All Time
- 2003 Winner, Academy Award, Best Documentary
- Moore's earlier film Roger & Me
- List of movies - List of actors - List of directors - List of documentaries - List of Hollywood movie studios
- The United Nations International Study on Firearm Regulation has country-by-country statistics about both gun ownership rates and death by firearm rates.
- Official Bowling for Columbine homepage
- Michael Moore's homepage
- Unofficial Michael Moore fan site
- New York Times review of the film
- "Factual errors and staged scenes in Bowling for Columbine" from spinsanity.org
- "Bowl-o-Drama" from Forbes Magazine, charges that several claims in the film are misleading
- "Bowling for Truth" by Richard Bushnell, criticism of several key scenes and arguments of the film
- "The Truth About Bowling for Columbine: Documentary or Fiction?" by David T. Hardy.
- "A defense of Michael Moore and Bowling for Columbine". An open letter to David Hardy by Erik M÷ller. Published and discussed at Kuro5hin
- Another analysis of Hardy's paper by Tim Dudley
- moorelies.com -- "truth and justice in reporting on Michael Moore", critical site about Moore's alleged lies
- Moorewatch, another critical website on Moore
- IMDB entry for Bowling for Columbine