‘Fahrenheit 11/9’: Ticket to Michael Moore’s latest film a hot item
Michael Moore in 'Fahrenheit 11/9'

TORONTO—One of the hottest tickets at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year was for the North American debut of Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore’s latest hopeful offering for creating social and political change. Within the expected style and content of previous Moore docs, this one offers a wide range of subjects centered around the new mess in the White House. “At 2:29 am on 11/9 [2016] our new leader’s image was projected onto the Empire State Bldg”—and that’s where the title twist of 9/11 comes from.

But a new development in Moore’s analysis is that he isn’t coat-tailing Hillary and the Democratic Party anymore. Unless you happened to blink just then and missed it, his Michael Moore in TrumpLand, a documentary of public talks he gave in a theatre in Wilmington, Ohio, in October 2016, urgently but alas, too late warned Americans against Donald Trump in the strongest possible terms, saying that his popularity in the Midwest should absolutely not be underestimated.

Now, with the reflection of the last two years behind him, he throws blame at many sectors of the political scene, most heavily at the media—The New York Times, specifically: “As the Democrats became more like the Republicans, so did the entire liberal establishment, led by the paper of record: catering to Big Business, minimizing social movements like Occupy Wall Street and cheerleading every war we got into, while also trying to dictate elections.”

At one point, Moore confesses his role as unwilling patsy in Trump’s rise. “This malignant narcissist has always played the media for suckers, and gotten away with it. I should know.” He tells of his appearance with Trump on The Roseanne Show in 1998, where he was forced to lay off Trump in order to save the show for Roseanne. Trump actually buddied up to him during filming, admitting that “I really liked Roger and Me—but not if I was Roger! I hope he never does one on me!”

Well, it appears he finally did.

But Moore is quick to explain that this isn’t just an attack on Trump, but a more wide-reaching examination of—in his own street jargon—“How the f**k did we get here!?” The two-hour rage is couched in his typical bitter satire, taking no prisoners along the way. Obama gets lambasted for his thoughtless performance in Flint when he asked for a glass of drinking water, unwittingly (?) implying that the water was safe to drink. His drone program, enhanced surveillance, Chelsea Manning, healthcare failures, endless wars and much more are not overlooked in Moore’s defiant challenge to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as mostly to blame for turning a large part of their supporters away favoring the Trump ticket—and the Bernie snub put the nail in the coffin.

After condemning the electoral college and all the various political parties, he goes after some of his own left allies. “Trump’s always committed his crimes in broad daylight on TV…as if by doing it publicly, it was all ok.” And in regard to Trump’s racist and sexist behavior on television, Moore scolds us all, saying, “Neither you or I called NBC to have a committed racist removed from the air.”

There’s an amusing segment where Moore is praised by members of Trump’s team. Jared Kushner helped promote Sicko, a film he praised along with its filmmaker. Steve Bannon, whose company sold online copies of Moore’s films, states, “Michael Moore is the master of the craft. I actually admire Michael Moore as a filmmaker. I don’t agree with his politics.” Which led Moore to reluctantly accept the fact that, “it seems like I’m too comfortable with the enemy.”

During Trump’s campaigning the media took notice that Moore was one of the only commentators warning of a Trump win. Many media pundits laughed at the possibility of Agent Orange in the White House. Moore pleaded that he knew the people of Michigan very well and could see how Trump appealed to the majority working class fed up with corporate abuse and the loss of jobs caused by rich Wall Street barons who were in the pockets of the Democratic Party. Workers were impressed by a leader going after the establishment, Big Pharma, Wall Street, et al, hoping to bring jobs back, pull out of wars.

Although Michael Moore in TrumpLand was a dire five-alarm appeal to put Clinton in the White House, Moore nevertheless felt elated by Trump’s triumphant eliminations of his Republican contenders. At times, he said, Trump was actually to the left of Hillary with regard to Wall Street, imperialistic wars and healthcare. (Of course, Trump reneged on many of these promises, while sticking to his fascistic ones). Moore also knows that the buildup of fascism didn’t start with Trump and that the system was to blame. Interestingly, he avoided going after Hillary (of whom he spoke admiringly in the TrumpLand film), but Bill Clinton receives the force of his wrath because of NAFTA, mass incarceration of Blacks, eliminating welfare for the poor, to name a few choice policies.

Fahrenheit 11/9 is filled with typical Moore jokes—a scene with Trump’s voice talking over Hitler speaking to a crowd; an attempt to storm the Michigan Capitol building, hoping to serve a citizen’s arrest on Governor Snyder for his Flint water crisis; and a stunt with a water truck spraying Flint water on Snyder’s front yard. This old-style Moore seemed out of place in this more sober analysis of not only how we got here, but how we need to show how we got here.

The film is filled with many examples of how the capitalist system is failing: Loss of jobs, big industry, lowered wages, failing education, healthcare and the infrastructure, while the disparity of wealth is widening. But Moore’s specific political position is still vague: Whether he supports replacement or reform of capitalism and the DNC is unclear. Don’t look for terms like “class struggle,” “Marxism” or “communism,” or even a serious analysis of fascism, imperialism and anti-communism. This is a populist approach, rallying the troops for action on whatever level they exist, and in whatever manner we can move the struggle forward.

Although he goes everywhere to find the causes of “how the f**k we got here,” he finds hope in many areas. He often gives the stage to progressive activists and politicians, the students from the Parkland school massacre who organized a massive nationwide protest in Washington where only students were allowed on the stage to speak. He spoke to well-informed Flint activists fighting for clean water, and the victorious women political figures poised to challenge the system—New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib from Detroit, slated to be the first Muslim woman in Congress.

This film recalls the hope we had when we thought a film in 2004 like Fahrenheit 9/11 could stop George W. from another four years of madness, but ultimately it made little impact on the election. Can cinema truly make an effect on the world? Does it have the power to bring sanity in times of desperation? Within individuals for sure, but for the masses, we’ll have to wait and see. But no one tries harder than Michael Moore.

The trailer can be seen here.


Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

Bill Meyer writes movie reviews for People’s World, often from film festivals. He is a keyboardist at Bill Meyer Music and a current member of the Detroit Federation of Musicians. He lives in Hamtramck, Michigan.