Farrenheit 11/9

Tom’s Rating: 5/10.

Farrenheit 11/9 was my first Michael Moore film. I knew Moore’s reputation, and having read mixed reviews about this documentary, I went to the screening with some apprehension. Unfortunately, while there are some truly shocking moments that resonated deeply with me, the anger it stoked was undermined by the echo chamber it ultimately spoke into.

I did not buy the way Moore stitched the horrific happenings in Flint, Michigan with his overall narrative about Trump’s rise. Yes, there is an awful lot to be said about top-rung Democrats' negligence towards poor communities. But at times it felt like Moore had two separate stories to tell. His own personal connection to Flint was by far the most poignant part of the film, and I wish it had been the sole focus of the entire documentary.

Then there was the gratuitousness of Moore’s style. Importantly I thought some of Moore’s decisions within the documentary were counterproductive to his aims. Overlaying Trump’s voice to a video of Hitler addressing a Nazi crowd felt childish, especially when compared to the heartfelt testimony given by Nuremberg’s last remaining prosecutor within the same film. The former sparked laughs from the audience, but I think that was precisely why I disliked it so much: given the poignancy, should we really laugh at the parallels being drawn?

The film’s ebb and flow made you feel angry, his interviews were emotionally resonant and you do get swept up in his verve. Yet, taking a step back, his documentary was jarring. While Moore rightly focussed on Trump’s incitements of violence and threats towards the press, he was more than happy to entertain the aggressive tendency of the West Virginian Democratic candidate. His use of statistics was selective and jarred when considered in the light of his criticisms of the current political elite. And his own activism against Governor Snyder and his team was gratifying, but ultimately more focussed on generating good footage than achieving justice.

Overall, watching the film felt like watching dangerous driving videos on YouTube - the anger can be cathartic, but it’s not particularly useful from a civic perspective. Farrenheit’s charm stems from Moore’s outlandishness and tenacity. From a cinematic perspective it lived up to the brand. But from a “concerned” point of view, I could not help but pick out the contradictions between Moore’s criticisms and his own actions as citizen and filmmaker.

Thomas Robinson
Thomas Robinson
Assistant Professor in Quantitative Comparative Politics

I am a political scientist studying representation, money in politics, and experimental/computational social science.