Bowling For Columbine


Directed by: Michael Moore
Released: December 26, 2002
Grade: A

Most gun-related deaths?   The United States “blows away” the competition.  Bowling For Columbine is a documentary made by American Michael Moore in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre.  It provides the facts on gun laws and gun control in the States and explores what people think is the real reason for their obsession with guns.

Never before have I seen a film made by Americans that pays out Americans to such a large extent.  It is very confronting and not surprisingly, has created its fair share of controversy.  If anything, this is attracting patrons.  The film has made $20m at home and been honoured abroad with a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Let’s just look at what Michael Moore gets up to in Bowling For Columbine.  He visits a bank in Northern Michigan where if you open a new account, you get a free gun.  It seems they are both a bank and a licenced gun dealer.  All you have to do is put $1,000 in a long-term deposit and they’ll give you a huge catalogue to choose your weapon of choice.

He interviews people in a town called Virgin.  Here, it’s law that every resident must own a gun.  One interviewee says “I think it’s a great place to raise your children” and actually means it.

Moore visits the home of James Nichols, the brother of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nicholas, to talk about his enjoyment of firearms.  He even shows Moore the gun he keeps under his pillow and at one stage, points the loaded gun directly at Moore’s head.

There’s a swag of interviews with notable celebrities including singer Marilyn Manson, the creator of South Park Trey Parker and in the film’s final scene, the head of the National Rifle Association, Charlton Heston.  Moore also interviews regular people off the street.  He’s looking to show both sides of the coin and does a pretty good job.

Criticism has been drawn to the film because of its one-sidedness and loose statistical data.  I’ll acknowledge that I too was curious where some of his factual data came from.  I’m not saying its wrong, but he throws numbers out there and not even the film’s website shows where he’s gotten them.  I don’t think it should detract from the film because the heart is still there.  No matter what you say, American’s are a bunch of gun nuts and finally someone is telling them this to their face through this film.

So what does Moore think to be the greatest contributor to this obsession with guns?  Fear.  American’s live in a society where the media instills fear.  One the interviewees states that whilst gun related deaths fell 20%, exposure on the news rose 600%.  As they say, “if it bleeds, it leads”.  Moore interviews one of the producers of Cops and suggests he make a new series called Corporate Cops.  The producer thinks its a good idea but admits it wouldn’t work unless the corporate criminals took off their shirt and be willing to be chased by the police for television.  That says it all doesn’t it.

Moore’s point about the media reminds me so much about the recent paranoia created by the Washington sniper.  There are so many other aspects of the film that time hasn’t given me the opportunity to explain.  Whilst its hilariously funny at times, there is a strong seriousness that dominates pivotal scenes.  There is actual footage of the Columbine massacre and a sample of 911 calls.  There are interviews with people who have been victims of gun related crimes.

Documentaries don’t get much cinema time in multiplexes but thankfully, Bowling For Columbine is receiving valuable exposure.  In my eyes, it’s the most important film of the year and at all cost, cannot be missed.