I've had a lot of people write and ask me for my opinion about Bowling for Columbine
when it was in theaters but I didn't see it till well after it was out on DVD (10-04). I'd heard enough about the movie to decide that I wasn't going to pay the stiff theater prices to see it and since I had already waited so long, when it came out for rent I figured to just wait till the opportunity arose to see it for free. Sure enough, I eventually found a copy at my local library. Now by this point I had heard so much about the film and seen so many excerpts on interviews that I already knew about the most surprising parts of the film -- the campaign against K-mart's selling ammunition, the interview with Charlton Heston, etc. I already knew that the movie wasn't so much about Columbine specifically as it was about living in a nation where the gun is the rule, or so the film would have the viewer believe.
I have mixed feelings regarding Bowling for Columbine
. I have to say that, after having seen it, it bothers me to know that there are teachers in other countries who use that film to illustrate what American life is like today. It's not how I see America, and I live here. Yes, we have a high level of domestic gun-related violence, but every place has its extremes. We don't have routine riots in the streets like Africa does or people-bombs going off in malls like in Israel. Each nation has its own kind of violent specialty -- ours happens to be in personal munitions thanks to our nation being founded on the right to bear arms.
That said, I did find many valid points in the film. It was real hard watching it at times, particularly when they talked with survivors of school shootings. Moore's interview with Kayla Rolland's teacher was particularly depressing. Kayla Rolland was a first-grader, just six years old when a classmate - also six - brought a gun to school and shot her while they were lining up to leave the classroom. She died within minutes; she bled to death on the floor of her classroom while her classmates stood over her. I followed that case back when it happened, and I was gripped again with just how *young* the shooter was. Such a horrible, horrible start to life. And Kayla's parents... I can't even imagine what that must have been like for them.
Now the part of the film having to do with Charlton Heston.. that was also sad, in a different sort of way. As a child I loved him in Ten Commandments
and grew up - like many - sort of thinking of him as Moses. Back in 1999 when the NRA was scheduled to come to Denver to hold their convention, I thought it was really uncouth and insensitive of them to go ahead and hold it there despite what had happened. Columbine wasn't just some bomb threat at school; people died. Since then I've done my research and come to understand the nature and logistics of trying to move a rally of that size someplace else in under 3 weeks AND get the word out to all the people who've already made arrangements and the legal backlash if everyone isn't informed and, and, and... The short of it: Legal red tape prevented change on such short notice.
However I did think it was out of place for Heston to appear there and carry on like the NRA was going to be blamed for the shootings though no one had even suggested such a thing. I know that Michael Moore carefully chose his footage for the film to portray what hje. Moore used the footage unfairly to drive his points home but right after the Buell shooting and so soon after Columbine, it probably would've been wiser of Mr Heston to give a more somber speech about how the NRA was about responsible gun ownership and skipped the speech about how people could take his gun away when they could pry it from his cold, dead hands. When children have been killed, it's just not the time for posturing of that sort.
Watching Moore grill Heston in what Heston had obviously (and rightfully, to his defense) thought would be a fannish interview supporting Heston and guns... that was painful in a weird way. It was sad to watch someone I'd thought of so fondly for so long get raked over the coals. On the one hand I wanted Michael Moore to stop picking on him, since he'd misled Heston in the first place just to get the interview. But it was also difficult to hear the answers Heston gave. It was heartbreaking watching him walk away from some hard questions like he was deaf. In short, it was a real disappointment to finally acknowledge that someone I had thought so highly of wasn't quite what I'd expected them to be.
Something that also bothered me about the film was how he wasn't honest with the Columbine victims he roped into the film, about what the purpose of the film was. Victim Mark Taylor
said later that if he'd known what Michael Moore was really doing with the film that he wouldn't have agreed to be in it as Mark is a firm believer that Americans should have a right to weapons.
As for my opinion on this specific film... it's good for the news clips, interviews and stuff that has directly to do with the school shootings but the viewer should keep in mind that the whole film is a very subjective look at a culture. It's meant to shock and horrify the viewer, not to present a neutral, unbiased look at what America's really like, day-to-day. As an Australian friend of mine told me when he visited: "I expected things to be a lot more dangerous here. I thought there'd be people with guns in their coats around every corner. But being here... it's not that different from Melbourne only you yanks drive on the wrong side of the street."
In short, we're not that different from other civilized English-speaking nations. Anyone can take facts and angle the frame they're in so that they support the conclusion the author wants you to believe in; the same holds true for this film. It's supposed to scare you. If you were to pick up a travel video highlighting a trip to America, you'd see a completely different side of things. Why? Because each side is marketing what they want to. Moore's not spotlighting the good side of American culture any more than you would see the homicide rate posted in a travel company's brochure about a trip to New York. See it for the interviews. See it for the news clips. See it for the resolution to the K-mart ammo sales issue. Just remember it isn't 'Eye on America'. It's a personal opinion, just like this review is.
Michael Moore's website was hacked not long after
'Bowling for Columbine' was released.
As a side note, I would suggest checking out Michael Moore Hates America
, a film directed by Michael Wilson in which he uses Moore's own tactics in an attempt to interview Michael Moore about his dodgy film-making and rather surprising political connections. It makes a great counterpoint to Bowling for Columbine