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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren


Turning Up the Heat
Column for the week of July 4-10, 2004

When Miramax, owned by Disney, blocked the release of Fahrenheit 9-11, they did Michael Moore a big favor. Not fully knowing what the content would be when they funded the venture, they were surprised at the end result and decided not to distribute it. Whatever their reasons for blocking it (public – “not family fare” or private – “someone was a Republican”) they failed to realize that everyone loves forbidden fruit. So it has been since the beginning of time. Just ask Adam and Eve. And controversy of any kind increases sales. Just ask Al Franken.

Therefore when Michael Moore’s Bush bashing film Fahrenheit 9-11 did get distributed to major theaters, it became the top single weekend grossing documentary of all time. Of course, his biggest competition was White Chicks (two black FBI agents pose as debutantes) by the Wayans, but we won’t go there. Still yet, it could very well become the top-grossing documentary of all time. In fact, it earned in three days more than the whole run of his last one, Bowling for Columbine.

Moore gained acclaim with the 1989 documentary Roger and Me, an account of General Motors closing its plant in Moore’s hometown, Flint, MI, and opening one in Mexico where the labor was cheaper. Last year he won the Academy Award for best documentary feature with Bowling for Columbine about violence and the gun culture. We should have known a documentary on Bush and the war in Iraq was coming when he shook his finger into the camera during his acceptance speech saying, “Shame on you Mr. Bush!”

Yes, Michael Moore has indeed helped to put documentaries on the map. He paved the way for the Blair Witch Project (oops…that was a fiction movie shot like it was a documentary), Erin Brockavich (oops…that was a movie sort of based on a true story), and Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s tasty morsel for the fast food industry. Actually documentaries do seem to be catching the public’s eye. Fahrenheit 9-11 even won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

Moore is a man on a mission. He says he hopes to inspire the non-voters to go to the polls in November but his obvious goal is to get Bush out of office. The reviews run the gambit of very, very, very bad journalism (Democrats) to very, very, very good journalism (Republicans). To say Moore slants views and “facts” to support his position would be an understatement. But in all fairness, so does the White House. Our government has created an environment of mistrust. So much so that when the public sees something like Fahrenheit 9-11, they forget they need to sort fact from fiction. Almost anyone will take liberties with truth if they think their cause is righteous enough, whether they be Democrat or Republican.

Seeing this movie will not really enable a voter to make an informed decision at the polls anymore than believing everything government tells him. It’s a sad state of affairs but no one knows what or who to believe. Generally the truth lies somewhere between.

The bad guy in this scenario may not be the president but the process we’ve created to put him in office. I’d like to see a documentary on political reform. The common man doesn’t elect the president. The Electoral College does. The common man isn’t represented in the White House, only the rich man is. It takes big bucks to campaign and get elected. A candidate either has to have it or get it from those he will owe favors to in the long run. Federal, state, and local campaigns cost billions of dollars. Yes, I said billions not millions.

Will Fahrenheit 9-11 turn the heat up enough to cook Bush? We’ll know in November. It’s an interesting scenario because everyone expects mud slinging during an election year. It’s just that usually it’s between the two opposing candidates.

 

 

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bdahlgren@wcgsouthbay.org.

 

 

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