Ghosts of Attica and Investigation of a Flame: A Documentary Portrait of the Catonsville Nine
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 1, 2003
- pp. 66-67
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Film Reviews | Regular Feature inflicted by another six-year-old). There are also moments of hilarity , such as the cartoon summary ofAmerican history. In the cases of both the Buell shooting and the Columbine incident, Moore focuses on the involvement ofthe NRA—a group that visited both areas immediately following the shootings in order to hold pro-gun rallies (over the protest oflocal community groups), and one that the film implies has direct ties to the KIu Klux Klan. As the high-profile leader ofthe NRA, Charlton Heston comes in for particularly heavy criticism. Early in the film—after a gruesome depiction of the Columbine events—the camera cuts to Heston bellowing "from my cold dead hands," while brandishing a rifle. It is an effective shot. Those who love guns can still rally to this potent dramatic voice, while those in opposition find one more reason to dislike Heston. At the film's climax, Moore visits Heston at home, able to set up an interview, at least in part because Moore himself is a member ofthe NRA. The latter fact is introduced early in the film and is another example of Moore's uncanny ability to assume the role ofAmerican everyman. Moore was notjust a member, but a champion marksman—then as now, we are led to believe. Moore steers Heston to address the question that lies at the very heart of both the film and the broader gun debate: "why are there so many gun-related deaths in the US?" Common answers include America's violent history, and the proliferation of guns. Significantly, Moore asks Heston these questions after the film has already developed the position that a number ofcountries have had bloodier histories (including imperial England and Nazi Germany ) while maintaining low gun death rates. In a telling moment , Heston suggests that the problem mightbe due toAmerica's ethnic mix. Heston's racism caps a message that is methodically pieced together in Bowlingfor Columbine. From the cartoon history of America to the revelation that Columbine High School is located next to Lockheed Martin' biggest installation, through the exploration of US news media and popular television shows such as COPS, Moore argues that white Americans are united by an allencompassing fear that makes them viciously dangerous. In opposition to this, Moore points to Canada, which has plenty of guns, but seems more civil. Canada is represented first by a visit to Sarnia, Ontario just up the road from Flint. Moore presents the town as a liberal haven where even rebellious teens are non-violent and believe in universal health care. In an interview with Mayor Mike Bradley, we hear the familiar narrative of a more socially progressive government producing a more just society. In a whimsical moment the filmreveals that Sarnia calls itself"the kissing capital ofthe world." Of course, this moment may misrepresent a city that is actually nicknamed "chemical valley," a point likely lost on Moore who grew up in Flint and not in Southern Ontario. Still, Bowlingfor Columbine presents an interesting argument . The idea that the trauma of America's violent past is driving the nation into a fear that is manipulated by corporations such as Lockheed Martin (who make profit from terror), is one that many will find worth consideration. After all, ifthere is a link between violence and economics, what effect might these conditions have on current domestic and foreign relations? Many, ifnot most ofthe film's audience, will appreciate the fresh view of the gun debate - a slightly sexier version of a Bill Moyer's pontification - though most will probably rejectMoore's final solution involving a Canadianization ofAmerica. After all, a challenge to gun freedom would change the very nature of the United States at a time when the country is involved in at least three wars: one on drugs, one on terror and one on Iraq. Is this really the time to stand down? Who else can claim to be better armed for war than this citizenry? With the health that comes from economic prosperity, a military budget that outstrips many countries ' GDP and a healthy distribution of guns in homes across the country, there simply is no rival for this multi...