BFI London Film Festival: Fahrenheit 11/9

Fahrenheit 11/9
Fahrenheit 11/9
Directed by Michael Moore
Screening at LFF October 14th and 15th 2018

by Joanna Orland

Inverting the title of one of his previous films, documentarian Michael Moore explores the election of Trump and the events leading up to it. Using archive footage and narration, Fahrenheit 11/9 begins by recapping the events of the 2016 election night and the results’ unveiling in the early hours of November 9th. After disclosing his own history with the Trumps and reflecting on the part he himself played in the rise of Donald, Moore then shifts focus to the Obama era and the water crisis that unfolded in Flint Michigan.

For those unaware, the Flint water crisis first began in 2014 when the water source was changed from the clean Lake Huron to the cheaper and highly polluted Flint River. People, including children, began getting sick with lead poisoning, some even dying from Legionnaires’ disease. Governor Rick Snyder and his administration are to blame, and Moore thoroughly delves into the background behind this greedy story. What felt like the nail in the coffin for desperate and ill Flint residents was when President Obama visited Flint, instead of bringing hope, he posed for photo opps with the disgraced Snyder, sipping from a glass of Flint water for the cameras. Rather than come to their rescue, Obama was rubbing salt in their wounds; Flint residents were rightfully furious, feeling as though politicians didn’t care about their lives. In the run up to the 2016 election, the only politician to visit the Flint water plant was Donald Trump.

Trump’s team knew he wouldn’t get the majority vote, so targeted the electoral college votes, especially of those who felt wronged by the system or were just furious with the establishment. The Flint water crisis, the Democratic Party’s treatment of Bernie Sanders, the rise of terrorism and bigotry all fueled Trump’s path to the White House. The inevitable comparisons of Trump and the Republicans to Hitler and the Nazi Party are made in satirical fashion, but point taken – we are on a dangerous path. A revelatory interview with elderly Nuremberg trial prosecutor Ben Ferencz is outright depressing. But… there is hope.

Fahrenheit 11/9 is far from all doom and gloom. Sure, Moore’s hatred for Trump, the GOP and even the Democrats is on full display, but using reasoned analysis and an array of statistics, Moore concludes that the majority of America is actually liberal: Many votes for Trump along with the many non-voters were in protest of the current system or because of a sense of futility. More uplifting prospects for the future are on the horizon as Moore examines widespread Teacher protests in America that have resulted in actual positive change. Moore spends time with grassroots politicians who have found their way onto ballots, inspired by the Democrats’ failings. The Democratic Party may be old guard and want to keep their candidates that way, but this new movement of left-leaning grassroots campaigners seems unstoppable. And then of course, there is the movement coming from the survivors of Stoneman Douglas High School.

In the wake of tragedy, the teenagers from Parkland are rallying together to change politics and gun laws. They’re encouraging their peers to vote, confronting politicians, and making enough noise that people in power should be worried. Moore spends time with David Hogg and his cohort in their headquarters, and clips of their inspirational and courageous work are on full display. Some of Fahrenheit 11/9‘s most poignant moments involve clips of Emma Gonzalez giving her emotional and powerful speeches. All of this footage is used to great effect to make us realize we are living in the now – that terrible time is here and we cannot be complacent. Let’s hope that the November 2018 midterm elections see some progress and change for a more liberal and fair society. While Moore is reluctantly optimistic for the future, he’s made it clear that we all have to band together if we stand a chance.

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