Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 11/9, which screened Thursday evening at the Toronto Film Festival, slices and dices Donald Trump in rousing, unequivocal, almost joyful fashion. And I loved it for that. Trump evisceration is what most ticket-buyers will expect to see, of course. And yet this complex, tough-minded doc drills into Trump for only about 1/3 of its running time. Okay, maybe 40%.
Orange Cheeto, it turns out, isn’t the primary villain of Fahrenheit 11/9 as much as the ultimate demonic expression of a general climate of corrosion, corruption and (this is interesting) laissez-faire, moderation-favoring attitudes among complacent Democratic normalists and media types over the last quarter-century.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are portrayed as the principal causes of a general lack of trust and proliferation of cynicism among the body politic about mainstream liberal governance. The mainstream media is culpable also, Moore says. He also champions the hardcore, anti-corporate left (Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, David Hogg and the other activist Parkland massacre survivors, the legendary Bernie Sanders). And a good portion of the doc focuses on the mind-boggling, all-but-deliberate poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s water supply.
The doc basically says that Trump is a malignant force and a lying, blustering, Hitler-esque authoritarian, but the political system is full of enablers, and we all have to get real and throw these bums out and stand with the gutsy activist lefties of the moment and make this country into a semblance of an actual Democracy again….no more Obama-styled “hope” but action, action and more action, and no more half-measures or liberal pussyfooting.
Moore’s ties to the working-class people of Michigan have always been his ace in the hole in terms of political-cultural insight and humanistic compassion. He was raised in the Flint suburb of Davison. In Moore’s youth Flint’s economy and General Motors factories were closely intertwined. His uncle LaVerne was one of the founders of the United Automobile Workers labor union and participated in the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936 and ’37.
Moore knows, of course, that much if not most of Trump’s support is rooted in demagoguery — in his skillful manipulation of racial resentments and anti-blue-state animus among the bumblefucks. Moore knows full well that racism is part of the mix, but he doesn’t touch it in Fahrenheit 11/9. He doesn’t want to pick at that ugly scab. But it’s obviously there, and the film would have been that much better if Moore had dealt with it to some extent.
How popular or influential will Fahrenheit 11/9 prove to be in terms of the upcoming midterm elections? It’ll help some, but the U.S. is a different culture than the one Fahrenheit 9/11 blew away 14 years ago.