Bowling for Columbine Is Not a Documentary

9 September 2016

Michael Moore’s ‘Bowling for Columbine’, the film which won an Oscar for best documentary, is not in fact a documentary, but rather more of a persuasive essay in film format. The widely accepted definition of ‘documentary’ is a film emphasizing or expressing things as perceived without distortion of personal feelings, insertion of fictional matter, and minimal editting, and ‘Bowling for Columbine’ does not show any of these characteristics. Instead of presenting a neutral view of the issues, it is clearly biased and purposely manipulates the viewers into agreeing with Moore’s opinions.

In the process, Moore frequently uses incorrect statistics and information. In some cases fabricated evidence is also inserted. Documentaries should have close to no editing of the evidence, however in some cases Moore uses sly editing techniques to deceive the viewers. A prominent example of this can be seen in Charlton Heston’s speech. It appears as though the NRA president is holding protest rallies in response to the gun related incidents in Columbine and Flint Michigan, holding a musket up and proclaiming “I have only five words for you: ‘from my cold dead hands’” whilst the crowd cheers.

Moore makes a point of cutting from scenes of heartbroken victims to Heston’s ‘arrogant’ speeches. The purpose of this is to demonize Heston, and also all the members of the NRA. He wants the audience to perceive all gun lovers as heartless, selfish monsters. However on closer observation, it turns out Moore simply grabbed segments from Heston’s former speeches, splicing them together to form a new one, completely different from what the president had intended. Documentaries are meant to lay out the truth, whilst here the film has morphed the truth into a lie instead.

Going back to the definition, Bowling for Columbine again falls short of being a documentary through it’s failure to include only correct, factual evidence. Moore chooses to use incorrect ‘facts’; the national gun murder statistics that seem abnormally high are sourced from the National Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and is a combination of gun related and non gun related incidents, so is therefore irrelevant to what the documentary was trying to say.

The rockets shown in the Lockheed Martin sequences and being driven though the streets of Littleton in the night are in fact space launch vehicles, not weapons of mass destruction as Moore claims. These “facts”, false in nature, are again put there to distort the truth and make the viewers believe that things are more horrifying than they actually are, so that they are more susceptible to Moore’s mental manipulation. One of the fundamentals of a documentary is that it must present facts, and obviously “Bowling for Columbine” has not fulfilled that requirement.

Throughout “Bowling for Columbine”, Moore presents an extremely biased view of events. Moore does everything in his power to manipulate viewers into see things from his eyes. Many are many persuasive techniques are used to achieve this. The film horrifies the audience with confronting scenes from the 9/11 attacks and the Columbine shooting. ‘A Brief History of America’ makes people see Americans as cowardly and pathetic. Charlton Heston’s ‘speech’ angers the audience and makes them turn against gun lovers.

There are many more examples, however the point is that documentaries should be neutral and informative, yet the film actively tries to force the viewers to a narrow-minded conclusion. In summary, although “Bowling for Columbine” may be a creative persuasive film, it is most certainly not a documentary. Not only does the film fail to adhere in any way to the definition of a traditional documentary, it largely utilises deceptive techniques to push Moore’s artificial and contrived point of view.

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