Bowling for Columbine

Bowling for Columbine is a documentary, but before you all hit the ‘page back’ button, its one of the most informative and powerful documentaries of recent years. Michael Moore who wrote and directed the documentary illustrates that the threat to the United States isn’t some far off superpower but its own mentality regarding guns and the right to bear them.

After any rampage involving some nutter who shoots up a school for example, everyone blames almost everything from Rap music to video games for warping said nutters mind. Moore shows that these people should stop avoiding the issue and start blaming the real cause – the lack of gun control. It’s refreshing to see a documentary that doesn’t take the easy way out and decides to tackle the issues head on, with some very powerful imagery and arguments.

With the key question laid out – why does the United States have the highest statistic of gun-related deaths in the world? – Moore tackles the issues from many angles. He explores the popular scapegoats such as movies, games, music and poverty and then proceeds to show that all these things are in abundance in other countries too.

One of the key aspects of the film is the tragedy that occurred at Columbine School, Michigan, where two students flipped and one day decided to fire over 900 rounds at the school, killing a number of students and teachers, before turning the guns on themselves. The massacre at Columbine was a key turning point in American attitude towards not only guns, but the children of America, who were now seen as potential time bombs ready to go off at any time.

Moore manages to use humour one second and then before you know it, he’s using a sledgehammer to make his point. A good example is a series of news reports about the atrocities carried out by the United States on other countries the whole time the tunes of Louise Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” plays over the top of it.

One of the funniest moments is a cartoon illustrating the history of the Americans from the time when they left good old England till present time USA – the whole time living in fear and loving their guns. The humour contrasted against images such as the grainy black and white images from Columbine during the shootings and seeing the two students carrying out their rampage is powerful and shocking.

Other surprises include revelations that Moore is a life long member of the National Rifle Association and a keen shooter from an early age. Also some of the celebrity interviews are extremely revealing such as the intelligent and succinct interview by infamous rocker Marilyn Manson who comes across as an individual who understands why he’s often blames for inciting violence; a stark contrast to Charlton Heston, president of the NRA, who comes across as a fanatic and incredibly insensitive.

For all its merits, Bowling for Columbine does tend to weaken in the second half of the documentary, as Moore develops a more offensive attitude towards K-Mart. Other weaker aspects are even though the film deals with guns and the horror they bring, it never really deals with the issues of gun control – it just points out that there is a problem.

Regardless of its flaws, Bowling for Columbine is still one of the most powerful films of recent times and one that can provoke more emotion than any fictional film. The exploration of the American psyche of being afraid, compounded by its media and its government, is truly fascinating. The film is entertaining and educational and one film that everyone should see.

Score 9/10