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Volume 68, Issue 45, Monday, October 28, 2002

Arts & Entertainment

Mooreis ‘Bowlingi takes aim at Heston, has NRA 
in the crosshairs

By Ray Hafner
Senior Staff Writer

As quickly as a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun, Michael Mooreis new documentary Bowling for Columbine flies from outright hilarious to horrifyingly tragic.

Moore begins with a simple question — why do Americans kill each other with handguns at a rate that surpasses the combined rest of the industrialized world? Using the 1998 Columbine High School massacre as a starting point, Moore examines nearly every facet of American gun history, including the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11 and the American "culture of fear."

The filmis centerpiece is a reconstruction of the events of April 20, 1998 using 911 phone calls and video from security cameras to show the terror inside Columbine. Words canit describe the feeling Moore creates here.

Bowling for Columbine is an enormous undertaking and one that is sure to fuel the gun control debate for years, because rather than give answers, Moore raises questions. And answers are not easily found.

Moore has a unique qualification for taking aim at the issue. A life-long member of the National Rifle Association, Moore won several shooting awards as a boy. Moore is also a resident of Flint, Mich. Flint made headlines last year when a six-year-old boy shot and killed another kindergartner.

The movieis theme is summed up most aptly by, of all people, Marilyn Manson. Manson was vehemently criticized for his music after the Columbine shooting because the shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, listened to Manson.

Manson points to TV news people who create a "culture of fear," scaring viewers by sensationalizing every story from killer storms to killer bees. That fear then drives both consumerism and gun sales. 

Racism is surprisingly connected to Americais gun culture, Moore discovers. A cartoon showing a skewed history of guns in America notes that the Ku Klux Klan and the NRA were formed in the same year. There is an ironic montage of video clips about killer bees in which the "aggressive, Africanized bees" take control and "shack up" across the street from white owners, pushing out the "kinder, gentler European bees."

Mooreis style of documentary is incredibly personal. His first was even titled Roger and Me, in which he perfected the art of looking sad while people slammed doors in his face. Lumbering and doughy-faced, Moore opens the movie by signing up for a bank account. After opening the account the bank hands him a rifle, part of their new promotion.

"Donit you think itis kind of dangerous to be handing out guns in a bank?" Moore asks.

Two of the other trips in the movie, one with Columbine survivors trekking to Kmart headquarters to return the bullets still lodged in their body, and another to NRA President Charlton Hestonis mansion, produce moments of equal comic irony. To Kmartis defense, after Mooreis first visit they agreed to stop carrying handgun ammo.

Moore has crafted an important movie. At times too broad and occasionally one-sided, critics and NRA supporters will have plenty of ammo for pot-shots, but like no one else, Moore is shaking things up.

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