Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)
Writer and documentary filmmaker, Michael Moore, is something of a divisive name in the US. Many are grateful to him for his documentaries that uncover many unwanted truths but he also has his critics, especially when it comes to those he is focusing the camera on. Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) are among Moore’s best works with the latter looking at the presidency of George W. Bush. With Donald Trump being elected as the US president in 2016 I guess it was inevitable that Moore would soon focus on his time in power. The result is: Fahrenheit 11/9.
Fahrenheit 11/9 opens with that fateful night in November 2016 when Hilary Clinton was supposed to become America’s first female president but, instead, and against all odds it was businessman, Donald Trump, who was given the keys to the White House. In the near four years since, Trump has rarely been out of the headlines, often for controversial reasons, and has been part of the Mueller investigation and survived impeachment as well. Moore’s documentary looks at the impact of Trump’s presidency on the US but that isn’t all that the documentary maker is concerned with. He digs down deep into America itself, to the grassroots where the many voters of different creeds and backgrounds are found. Moore looks at how both Republicans and Democrats have affected these people with their policies and he delves into that key question of how Trump was able to upset all predictions and become the most powerful man in the world.
I assumed Fahrenheit 11/9 would be solely about Trump and while he is a big part of this documentary, the attention is also drawn to the Democrats, to Barack Obama and to the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who are trying to breathe new life into their ailing party. There are some hard-hitting revelations in here with my view of the Democrats especially being somewhat dimmed. The documentary is at its strongest when Moore throws in the key case study of Flint, Michigan, whose citizens went from drinking clear, glacial water to water contaminated with lead and very little was done about it for a long time. At grassroots level we also gain an insight into the appalling state of the education sector and address the very important issue of gun ownership. Moore tries to cram a lot into this piece and for the most part it works really well. Only in the latter stages of the documentary do things start to fade somewhat. Moore is searching for answers but not all of our questions are fully addressed by the denouement. The steam runs out a little. The US is a polarised nation now, just as the UK is where I live, and your opinion of this documentary may be influenced by your initial thoughts on Michael Moore himself. Fans of Moore will find a lot to savour here but his critics will have no issue with dismissing many of the truths he tries to bring to the table.
Verdict: A solid and steady documentary from Michael Moore rather than one of his outstanding ones.