"Bowling for Columbine"
Director: Michael Moore
Shelley Friedman

Here are the facts: Last year there were 381 firearm homicides in Germany. There were 165 in Canada, and 39 in Japan. In the United States, there were 11, 127.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (Roger and Me) investigates our nation's gun culture in his most recent film, Bowling for Columbine. Beginning with the massacre at Columbine High School, where 12 students and one teacher were shot and killed in April 1999, Moore tries to figure out why Americans are so obsessed with guns, and why we are killing each other at rates staggeringly higher than other nations. The film takes a circuitous route for these answers, and shifts from moments that are frightening to hilarious. We see the absurdity of a bank in Moore's home state of Michigan that offers a free gun with a new checking account, and then a chilling interview with James Nichols, the brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator, Terry Nichols. We are on a roller-coaster ride of emotion from witty cartoons to unnerving news footage of America's destruction overseas.

Some of the honesty of the film is lost as it is steeped in manipulation. Moore is known for being a biased journalist who hunts down the guilty corporate man. In this film, he takes aim at NRA President Charlton Heston, who held a rally in Littleton, Colorado, just 10 days after the Columbine shootings. We are brow-beaten with the image of Heston holding a rifle in the air, proclaiming that the weapon will have to be pried "from my cold, dead hands." Moore gets an interview with Heston under the pretense that Moore is actually a member of the NRA. He is a great instigator in this way, because he typifies the American gun-lover he is scrutinizing. However, when Heston ends the interview abruptly, Moore responds by leaving a picture of a slain 6-year-old girl, a victim of a school shooting, on Heston's driveway. This act makes Moore appear as one of the sensational journalists he goes great lengths to criticize.

Most of the film is affecting, particularly the footage from the Columbine massacre. It is also especially moving when Moore and two injured students from Columbine convince K-mart to stop selling ammunition in their stores.

In the end, Moore convinces us that many other countries are just as crazy about guns as we are. But, he blames our exceedingly high homicide rate on the TV news, which creates a "culture of fear," and that 33 million people in the U.S. are living in poverty, and 41 million people are without health insurance.

Above all, this is a timely film. When Bowling for Columbine was first released, we watched our nation's violence escalate with the sniper shootings in D.C.

It is no wonder that this film received a 13-minute standing ovation at its premiere, and that it was the first documentary film accepted into competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 46 years. This film is highly informative, entertaining, moving, and engaging, and, undoubtedly, an important film to see. For every American, Bowling for Columbine is essential viewing.

Note: Visit www.bowlingforcolumbine.com and www.michaelmoore.com for more information on the film.

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Copyright Web del Sol, 2003

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