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Farenheit 9/11: The Most Controversial Film of This Year - 2004-07-02


"You can make people do anything if they are afraid."

"The FAA has taken the action to close all of the airports in the United States. All commercial and airline traffic was grounded. But we had some airplanes authorized at the highest levels of our government to pick up Osama Bin Laden's family members and transport them out of this country. In the middle of the war, corporations decided to hold a conference to figure out how much money could be made [in Iraq]. It's gonna be good for business…bad for the people…"

Is it fact or fiction? This question will haunt most viewers of the award-winning and blistering documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Director Michael Moore is well known for his other documentary films, including "Roger and Me" and, more recently, "Bowling for Columbine." This latest is his most blatantly political film.

Moore examines the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration. "Fahrenheit 9/11" makes the case that President Bush decided to attack Iraq long before he announced he was going to do so and that the war was motivated by oil interests rather than national security.

The director points to the Bush family's close association with Saudi oil magnates and the Saudi government. Moore filmed one scene outside the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. It shows him speaking with a financial expert about the economic influence Saudis wield in the United States:

Moore: How much money have the Saudis invested in America, roughly?

Expert: Ah…I've heard figures as high as 860 billion dollars.

Moore: What percentage of our economy does that represent? I mean it seems like a lot!

Expert: Roughly six or seven percent of America.

In "Fahrenheit 9/11" Michael Moore also questions some of the actions the American government has taken in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States. For instance, Congress hastily passed the Patriot Act shortly after September 11th. The law significantly increases the powers of law enforcement agencies in the country and Moore says that members of Congress didn't even read the act prior to making it law.

Moore: "I couldn't believe that virtually no member of Congress had read the Patriot Act before voting on it. So, I decided the only patriotic thing to do was for me to read it to them."

Moore abandons his well-known acerbic humor when he shifts his attention to the war in Iraq. He speaks with family members of American soldiers and provides footage of Iraqi and American casualties in Iraq.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" is clearly anti-war and anti-Bush Administration. And that, of course, has caused a huge amount of controversy. Critics charge that Michael Moore has put a liberal spin on the truth. But he says he's simply sharing another point of view.

He said, "Well, like a lot of Americans, I just have not understood why for four years we've been presented with one basic view of this Administration and we haven't heard the other side of the story. We haven't seen the truth -- at least what I think is the truth."

But not all of Moore's arguments are compelling or convincing. For instance, while he claims that the government uses the fear of terrorism to control the American public, he never talks about the threat terrorists actually pose to the U.S. and other countries.

Still, director Michael Moore presents his version of the truth as skillfully as in his Academy-award winning documentary "Bowling for Columbine." There's a vast amount of original footage, extensive interviews, smooth editing and his signature wit.

These elements, along with the content and the hype surrounding the movie, will likely make "Fahrenheit 9/11" a blockbuster at the box office. As for the film's audiences? Most viewers will leave the theater wondering is the film fact or fiction? For a political documentary such as this one the answer makes all the difference.

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