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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 18:33 GMT
Bowling for Columbine
Michael Moore in

Newsnight Review discussed Michael Moore's new film.

"Bowling for Columbine" is a documentary in which Moore confronts gun nuts, and Charlton Heston.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


KIRSTY WARK:
Michael Moore had the grace to admit he was a teenage marksman, does he hit the target?

JEANETTE WINTERSON:
Absolutely. If you want to get interested in politics, this is the sort of film to see. He avoids the syrupy sincere believe me promotional technique.

He misses the evangelical born-again rally the Americans love. He's absolutely direct. He asks simple clear questions and doesn't try to be clever and draws you in.

KIRSTY WARK:
It was a focus film. The film Roger and Me was a more scattered business. It was very focused and incredibly upsetting.

TOM PAULIN:
Absolutely. Everything adds together to his pursuit of Charlton Heston which is the culmination of the film.

And Charlton Heston is appearing at places like Columbine two months later to promote the National Rifle Association and he's in pursuit of him.

And then the whole K-Mart thing, the bullets at the Columbine massacre were bought there. He confronts the K-Mart directors.

He's a holy man. He doesn't have the anger that contents somebody who has an absolute ethical opposition to the power of darkness.

People think he's a genuine and soft human being, so he leads them into traps all the time and that's part of the fun of it.

KIRSTY WARK:
He does that on several occasions. One of them is with the brother of the Oklahoma bomber. A chilling interview, which I'm surprised that no-one has ever done before.

TOM PAULIN:
And the militia thing, that tacky red neck, poor America affirming guns.

KIRSTY WARK:
He sets out a number of different arguments. The main one is that America is based on fear.

WILL SELF:
Yes he blends three main things together. He wants to say on the one hand that the superfluity of guns and how devisive American society is.

When he gets to the killing of one six-year-old by another in a school in his own area, he focuses on this case of the mother being on a welfare to work scheme which took her away from being able to look after this child.

That is very powerful thing. It's another thing to say, America is a powerful state that has a lot of weaponry itself. It's a third thing to say it's a devisive culture.

He follows all of these three strands throughout the film. That's why I think it's richly textured.

JEANETTE WINTERSON:
He shows how the media chase after these tragedies and present them all the time as being normal real-life. Nothing good ever happens in America it's only tragedy. That is what people see.

KIRSTY WARK:
There is one piece we can't show. That is the CTV footage of Columbine in the café and it's silent. The children are rushing under a table. They are rushing out. To avoid the bullets. Then you see the killers walking past.

WILL SELF:
I found it deeply disturbing. I want to believe in my heart this a genuine guy. There are points in that CCTV footage when you juxtapose it with some of his more flippant remarks.

I felt uneasy with what was going on. You couldn't help this was necessary to bring in the punters in some way.

KIRSTY WARK:
You don't think he's a fake.

WILL SELF:
I don't think it's a fake. This is a film I would like to show to my 12-year-old son.

KIRSTY WARK:
What do you make of his attack on the American media. Particularly these cop shows including Cops.

WILL SELF:
Again that that's another strand to his argument. He is blunt about this in a way you wouldn't necessarily expect. He says this is a lot to do with race as well.

White flight to the suburbs and shows like Cops are aggravating the over current of racism in white American society. That is the paranoia they are feeding. A fear of a big black man with a gun coming to your gated community and shooting it up. That's what they exploit.

On the wider issue, print media, TV, whatever the States, that snippet you had with him at the Round House he was measured and calm. The American media is a complacent beast Indeed.

KIRSTY WARK:
His pursuit of Charlton Heston is threaded through the film. When he gets to Charlton Heston and he rings the bell and he says , "Come back tomorrow morning".

He has time to prepare. There is a debate coming on about whether Michael Moore pulled his punches and wasn't as tough as he should have been?

JEANETTE WINTERSON:
If he had gone in for him we would have had more sympathy. Heston looked ridiculous. You felt he was hiding everything. He is surrounded by security. Who no-one can touch. Who says , "I load my rifle at night because I choose to".

TOM PAULIN:
He let him talk. Charlton Heston went on about this country was invented by those old dead white guys which picks up the wonderful cartoon about how these white guys come in and wreck the place. It fitted in extremely well.

WILL SELF:
He played the race card himself. He said ethnic diversity was one of his explanations..


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