Bowling for columbine (2002)

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For my poetic eyes project I have been searching through archive footage , newspaper cuttings , audio and photographs in order to educate myself about the subject of firearms possession. A major influence for me was feature film Bowling for columbine which is written, produced, directed, and narrated by thee famous and considerably brave in nature Michael Moore. I first watched this film  in 2002 the year of its production and now I am older and have researched thoroughly into this subject this film moved me more than any other has for a very long time.

Derek Axel Rose Version of Bowling For Columbine Trailer from Derek Rose on Vimeo.

A groundbreaking film for Michael Moore ‘Columbine it won numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature, a special 55th Anniversary Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and the César Award for Best Foreign Film. Many people believe that this film was the key to Moore’s fame and respect as a filmmaker. The thing that sold it seemed to be its controversial nature, at no point in the film did I stop asking the question ‘Should you really be doing that?’ or ‘Should you really be saying that?’. Without doubt Moore asks the questions nobody else will and he eventually exposes the elephant in the room many of us probably hadn’t even noticed was there.

‘Bowling for Columbine’ is so named for the events that happened in the morning of the Columbine high school shootings in 1999 where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold the two young students who undertook the attack attended a school bowling class early that morning, at 6:00 AM, before they committed the attacks at school starting at 11:17 AM. The juxtaposition of joy with disaster is a motif that runs throughout the whole of the film. Cartoons bring light humour to the subject until you come back down to earth with a (if your me a tearful) thud as you see young children not even old enough to talk playing with a real loaded rifle as if it was a teddy.

‘Columbine’ is archive heavy, so a part of you may easily be led to believe the anti-gun message is credibly backed up. It is pretty difficult not to be drawn in with such sensationalised footage. A bank where if you open up an account you get a free gun regardless of any existing mental health conditions and a children’s cartoon that cheerfully promotes the message that

“Happiness is a warm gun”

Seriously. Its the way that these shocking figures are put across so matter-of-factly that sends shivers down your spine. Who even knew that in  Virgin, Utah a law was actually passed requiring all residents to own their own gun. Now that would be an interesting amnesty , where you would be punished for not owning a dangerous weapon capable of destroying innocent lives. As you can probably tell I already had existing strong views on this subject but this film churned something very deep inside of me.

What type of world are we living in when someone can come into their own school and brutally murder 12 students, a teacher and injure a total of 21 students. Students there to learn and give themselves a chance of a future only to have it cruelly taken away by an act that this film shows is only too common. Fast paced and cleverly crafted editing shows the list is never ending. Archives of this nature is endless as I have also found myself in my research for this project and it certainly provokes thought.

He took a risk exposing what he did and audience response in America wasn’t exactly positive. I do partly agree with the response that Moore’s film was biased propaganda only trying to parody American society as idiots. I do not think this was intention, I believe he effectively exposed a common attitude in American societies flaws for us all to see all over the world. The thing about this film is that although Moore obviously has some strong values he puts it across in a way that at least seems to be unbiased fact from his use of real life interviews and real life opinions which lets us make the decision for ourselves as an audience.

Moore was both applauded and booed at the Academy Awards on March 23, 2003. I think perhaps that this may actually be the perfect reaction he wanted. A controversial and thought provoking film it is one of few I would personally rate 5 stars.

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