Bowling For Columbine

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Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Michael Moore, George W Bush, Dick Clark, Charlton Heston
Director: Michael Moore

In the year following the Columbine school shootings of 20 April 1999 relatives of those who died in the massacre filed a lawsuit against computer game makers – claiming their products helped bring about the killings. As you might have guessed their legal claim was unsuccessful, but for friends, relatives and survivors, the need to blame somebody or something greater than the two suicidal teenage gunmen who committed the shootings continues. Michael Moore, currently the USA’s bravest of satirists, begins his two-hour documentary with the thesis that maybe the bowling game gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold played at six am on the morning of the shootings might have been the activity which pushed them over the edge. That bowling – a fun, family friendly activity – should be such a bad influence is clearly absurd, but in a country which allows you to pick up a free gun when you open a bank account and buy a bullet in K-Mart for 17c, as Moore demonstrates, absurdity is indeed an option.

This is a film about the USA’s love affair with the gun, and I say the USA here rather than America, because as Moore rightly points out, north of the US border, in a land of gun-totin’ hunters and fishers, Canada had just 165 deaths through shootings last year compared to the USA’s 11,127! Of course those in the US National Rifle Association headed by Charlton Heston, who Moore visits in film, might say that this is because the US has a far greater population than Canada – but there’s obviously much more to investigate. Moore’s journey takes him to Michigan, the gun-loving state he grew up in, home of the infamous Michigan Militia which bred Terry Nichols the man who joined Timothy McVeigh in blowing up the Oklahoma government building in 1992. Speaking to Nichols’ brother, it’s clear that you don’t have to be paranoid to own a gun, but it helps, ‘I use a pen not a sword – but keep a sword in case’. Equally shocking is the conversation Moore has with an adolescent in a local snooker hall, who tells him he felt proud to be no. 2 on his school’s most likely to go on a shooting spree list – but rather sad he hadn’t made it to no.1. Perhaps the all-American need to be a success at whatever it is you do, is the philosophy we should be questioning.

Michael Moore speaks to Americans around the country and in Canada – where he finds nobody bothers locking their doors even in the cities – and decides that his own nation is built on fear. In a wonderful animated sequence, US history is potted into a couple of minutes with the founding Fathers leaving Europe through fear, then continuing their cowardly General Custer (d!) march against the native Americans, the British and the African slaves. And what was it that helped them manage their fear all these years – and become the World’s leading superpower – why the gun of course.

This is a truly great documentary and a must for anybody who cares about the state of this planet and the fact that all of our futures are somehow tied up in the hands of gun friendly Americans like Heston and co. And in the words of Marilyn Manson, who many vilified in the wake of the Columbine massacre, we’re all caught up in a campaign of fear and consumption these days. Food for fear and thought.

5 out of 6 stars