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A Tale of Two Documentaries

July 6th, 2004 · No Comments

Last Friday, I finally got around to seeing Farenheit 9/11, and I’m afraid I don’t have a whole lot to add to what’s already been said, though I think it probably bodes ill for Bush that a movie this bad, on a number of levels, sold out every showing but the 11:00 and the midnight that day. (They may have later sold out those, for all I know…) Dave Kopel’s list is itself dodgy in places—I don’t count it a “deceit” when Moore shows Bush reading My Pet Goat for seven minutes after learning of the WTC attacks but fails to mention that the principal at the school approved of this. That’s not even an important omission. But it’s unsatisfying on a number of levels. First, because there’s some genuinely good footage and some damning points to be made, and Moore only undermines them by going off on bizarro tangents about how we invaded Afghanistan to get a natural gas pipeline. Aside from its factual demerits, though, I think it just fails as a narrative: Moore’s kitchen sink approach is to throw together everything he can that reflects badly on Bush, and the movie ends up feeling badly disjointed. Cut the thing in half and get someone else to write a new voice over, and you would’ve had a much more powerful film. In fact, I’m hoping we start to see amateur remixes circulating online, as we did with The Phantom Menace, when some enterprising souls cut out about 90 percent of the Jar-Jar Binks footage.

I also saw Control Room, an exponentially better documentary that gives an inside look at the Al Jazeera network. Looking at the movie site, by the way, I see this quotation from a U.S. military press liason: “”It benefits Al-Jazeera to play to Arab nationalism because that’s their audience, just like Fox plays to American patriotism, for the exact same reason… because that’s their audience” Ever notice how it’s invariably their nationalism and our patriotism? I’m also, incidentally, told that the spokesman in question was fired after the movie was released—perhaps because he confessed that he occasionally caught himself “spinning.” If that’s the reason, seems a foolish move on the military’s part; I expect that sort of candor to be good for his long-run credibility. Anyway, I recommend Control Room to anyone who can get out to see it; the contrast between that film and F9/11 makes it truly puzzling to me that a hack like Moore is elevated to this sort of demigod status while films like this seem to slide under the radar. Next up: The Hunting of the President

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