Film Summary: Bowling for Columbine
Dir. Michael Moore, 2002

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1.         First image is from a film promoting the National Rifle Association.  A man dressed in an Army uniform—full dress—says, “The National Rifle Association has produced a film which you are sure to find of great interest.  Let’s look at it. Then Michael Moore voice-over, against images of people at work in America.  It sounds like a typical “morning in America” spiel, but one of the images shows bombed out buildings as Michael Moore says, “and the President ordered the bombing of another country we couldn’t pronounce,” and then he refers to “the little town in Colorado two boys went bowling at six in the morning.”  Cut to the bowling and then to a cute “chick” in a bikini—as she holds up an M-16.  Dissolve to the Statue of Liberty.  Moore’s voice-over: It was a typical day in the United States of America.




2.         We hear the last strains of ”The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as we see Michael Moore open an account at a bank in Michigan so that he get a free firearm—a shotgun.  There he is, dressed in his “outfit,” loose-fitting clothes and baseball cap and three days’ growth of beard.  His voice-over explains the context of getting the free gun.  One teller tells him the bank has 500 guns in the vault.  Note the gun rack on the side of the wall—with three guns in the rack.”  Then he sits across from the teller and is told “which we are a licensed firearms dealer.”  He acts dumb, asks how to spell Caucasian, and gets the woman to say, “I don’t think that’s the part they’re going to be worried about.”  Then a discussion of being “adjudicated mentally defective.”  “So if I’m just normally mentally defective but not criminal—“  Now he has his shotgun, and the man  next to him makes some typical manly statements about how sweet the gun is.  “I have one question. Don’t you think it’s a little dangerous to be handing out weapons in a bank?”  Cut to a quick shot of him pointing the gun at the camera—music up—and then an image of him leaving the bank and holding the gun over his head!




3.         Music up and the title sequence.  Wide shots of archival footage of people all bowling—all from the 50s, black and white, showing regimentation and good clean fun.  Abruptly cuts to a television commercial pushing realistic-looking toy guns sold by the Marx Company.   The commercial shows two dumb cops mistaking the sounds of the toy guns for the sounds of real guns.  Then a smooth transition to old 8-mm home movies of Michael Moore at the age of 6—there he is with “my first gun!”  Moore’s voice-over: I couldn’t wait to get out and shoot up the neighborhood.  More home movies.  A photograph of the teenaged Michael Moore holding up his marksman award trophy from the National Rifle Association. Moore’s voice-over: I grew up in Michigan, a gun lover’s paradise—and so did this man—Charlton Heston.  Then we cut to a black and white film clip of Heston—and then a movie clip—and then a clip from an NRA promotional video of their President—and then a quick shot of Michael Moore, dressed in blaze orange, firing his shotgun, and then a reaction shot of Heston—tough guy!


4.         Close shot of a beagle with a rifle slung over its shoulder on a special harness.  Cut to a stiff-on-camera shot of a Michigan State Trooper telling the story of the hunters who dressed up the dog with the rifle sling.  One of them got shot by the gun that was attached to the dog.  Believe it or not.  Of course, the subject tells the story in a dry, unemotional tone of voice.  “Was the dog held at any period of time by the police,” Michael Moore asks off-camera.  “Is it possible that the dog knew what it was doing?”  Of course, the officer doesn’t bat an eye: “That I don’t know.”  But he does think “the dog was cute dressed up like a hunter.  It was kind of neat.”  Michael Moore in a barber shop.  There he is in the chair—loading up his rifle with live ammo while he gets his hair cut.  “Don’t worry—it didn’t discharge,” the barber says.




5.         Abrupt cut to the comedian Chris Rock, walking back and forth on stage from one of his performances.  He does his gun control routine.  “We need some bullet control.  I think all bullets should cost $5,000.  If a bullet cost $5,000, there would be no innocent bystanders.  People would think before they killed someone if bullets cost $5,000.”  He pretends to be a “killer”: “Man—I would blow your fuckin’ head off—if I could afford it.” 




6.         Target practice time for the Michigan Militia.  Michael Moore’s voice-over explains the context for this scene.  In April, 1995, two guys who lived in Michigan, and who had participated in the Michigan Militia training, blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people.  As he gives this information, of course we see two quick photographs of McVeigh and Nichols. “If you’re not armed, you're not responsible,” one of the weekend warriors says, as he struggles to buckle his ammo belt.  Another guy says, “We’re all normal people.”  Moore stands around in the background—looking a bit cold and uncomfortable.  The four men tell him what sorts of guns they have in their homes.  Then the men talk about the 2002 edition of the Militia Babes calendar—cheesecake with M-16s.  Of course, the men defend the use of the calendar as a fund-raising tool.  Then we see a woman, dressed in fatigues, talking about using guns most of her life.  Next to her is a little girl of three, wearing only diapers.  She notes that most people think first about calling the police when they are in danger.  “Hey!  Cut out the middleman!  Take care of your own family yourself,” is her response.  The four men walk down a country road into the darkness, and Michael Moore walks behind them, his hands in his pocket.




7.         Michael Moore stands next to a bald-headed man with a beard and talks organic farming.  Who is this guy?  Turns out it’s James Nichols, brother of Terry Nichols—who with Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.  We see inserts of photographs of the suspects. Then a shot of the Federal Building—after it was blown up, and a quick shot of TV footage of an injured child.  Michael Moore’s voice-over.  “But the Feds didn’t have the goods on James, so the charges were dropped.”  Back t to the farm scene.  “Did Timothy McVeigh stay here?”  Nichols admits that he stayed there for three months.  “He was a nice guy.”  He admits he had all sorts of explosives-related material on the farm—but stuff that any farmer would have around.  “That is in no way connected to the bombing.”  Moore stands next to him and looks around, as if wondering about all of this.  Cut to an interior scene.  Nichols at his kitchen table.  “Those people—law enforcment, if you want to call them that, were here and were shaking in their shoes—scared to death—because they thought this was going to another Waco.”  He rants on and on, accusing his ex-wife at one point of plotting against him.  Quick reaction shot of Michael Moore—he looks scared. Back to Nichols, who continues his rant about people “being enslaved by the government.”  He declares that the people may “revolt with ANGER” (he growls out that word).  “There’ll be blood running in the streets.” More and more about the duty of the citizen to overthrow a tyrannical government.  Moore mentions Gandhi.  Why not do it his way.  He didn’t use guns. Reaction shot of Nichols.  He shrugs his shoulders. “I’m not familiar with that.” 




8.         “Oscoda has a bad habit of raising psychos,” a young man says.  He wears a blue bandana, and he has a scruffy beard and big brown eyes.”  He is in a bar in a small Michigan town. Michael Moore’s voice-over introduces the young man, and another young man—his buddy.  Michael Moore explains that one of the Columbine killers, Eric Harris, spent part of his youth living on the Air Force base outside of town.  His father was a pilot and bombed Iraq in the first Gulf War.  Michael Moore asks the first guy if he knew Eric Harris.  “He left before I got here.”  One of his friends knew Eric. The other guy, overweight, with a whisp of a mustache, and wearing his baseball cap backwards, says, “I went to school with him, and it shocked me to hear it on the news.”  The first guy explains he was kicked out of high school—for fighting and pulling a weapon on another kid.  “I could’ve made a mess of that situation.”  The second guy said he thought of moving to Colorado.  He tells Moore he was number 2 on the bomb list at high school. “This town really gets people down.”  But Moore goes after him now—and keeps pushing for the real reason he was considered a threat.  Finally, t he kid says, “I was a troubled kid.  Well, okay, the thing is, I have a thing called The Anarchist’s Cookbook.”  “You never made a bomb yourself?”  “I’ve made ‘em! There was nothing big.  The latest thing I built would have to be a good five-gallon drum of napalm—homemade napalm.”  What is his regret?  He wanted to be number 1 on the list. “I guess it was kind of an ego thing to know that I was number 1 on something in Oscoda, even if it was t he bomb threat list.”


9.         Back to the Nichols interview.  He admits it was wrong to blow up the Federal Building.  “I use the pen. The pen is mightier than the sword.  But you must always keep the sword handy for when the pen fails.  I sleep with a .44 magnum under my pillow.  Michael Moore expresses disbelief.  “Everybody says that.”  So Nichols takes him into his bedroom and shows him the gun.  The cameraman stays back, outside the bedroom, and we can see Moore standing inside by the bed and hear Nichols talking.  “Is it loaded?” We can’t see Nichols.  “Aie yie yie!” Nichols says.  We hear a hammer cock.  “I believe you,” Moore says.  Suddenly a graphic on the screen: “Nichols has cocked the gun and put it to his temple.”  Moore says, “Don’t do that!”  Nichols laughs.  “Put the hammer back.”  Moore cheats and uses Nichols’ voice-over, as we hear him say, “No one has the right to tell me that I can’t have it!”  Then he continues—on camera at the table: “It’s protected in the constitution.”  “Where does it say a handgun is protected?” Michael Moore asks.  “No—gun!”  Michael Moore cuts him off: “It doesn’t say gun!” Both say together, “It says arms!”  Michael Moore keeps after him, and finally asks, “Do you think you should have the right to have weapons-grade plutonium here on the farm?”  After some more “badgering” of the witness, Michael Moore gets Nichols to admit, “That should be restricted.”  “Oh, so you do believe in some restrictions?”  “Yeah, there’s whackos out there!”




10.        Cue the montage—upbeat music with the lyrics, “Happiness is a warm gun!” Shots of Virgin, Utah, where gun ownership is required, a shot of a Midway game, “Shoot the Geek!”, little kids shooting paintball rifle shots at a live “Geek,” a firearm in a holster on the lower thigh of a woman’s leg, a teenager shooting an M-16, a “chick” in a bikini shooting an M-16, a blind target shooter (who says, “I’m actually real comfortable with assault rifles), then two guys holding mean-looking rifles, a man shot from behind in an airport concourse, a man who puts a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger, a woman shot suddenly from behind by her estranged husband, a man with a gun (in the middle of a freeway) who puts a shotgun to his head and pulls the trigger, and a black man in the middle of the road who is shot and falls backward.  The montage ends.


11.        A young Caucasian woman stands outside a typical suburban townhouse (small trees to the side, green lawns), and talks about how good life is in this city. Then cut to an interior of a missile manufacturing site.  An executive (dressed in a suit and red tie) says, “This happens to be a place where two young men made very bad and very wrong decisions.  Other than that, I don’t know if Littleton is any different than a whole lot of other places.”  So we know we are in Littleton, Colorado, home of Columbine High School.  Cut to a Chamber of Commerce film touting the good life in Littleton—limitless golf, sunny skies, warm temperatures.


12.        Then we see Michael Moore standing next to a Denny Fennell, a security consultant.  He stands outside of a house in Littleton.  Here’s “your average suburban middle class home.”  But notice the metal grill over the door.  “The burglar and the rapist are still somewhere here in the neighborhood.”  The camera moves right and we see Michael Moore next to him at the front door. “Where exactly are the burglar and the rapist right now?” Cut to Michael Moore sticking a picket knife through the grillwork.  His point is obvious: he won’t do much damage with that weapon.  “What if I had a spear?”  But the security consultant isn’t listening. He takes Moore downstairs and shows him a safe room—where the owners would retreat in case of an attack by a burglar or rapist. “And now the criminal has to break through this door!” “An axe would do it,” Michael Moore says.  The security consultant agrees with that idea.   Back outside, the security consultant begins to generalize about Columbine.  “It changed how we talked.  If I say ‘Columbine,’ everybody knows what it means.  I don’t have to explain to you that Columbine—“ and he can’t finish his thought.  He begins to choke up.  “What’s wrong?”  “Sometime Columbine bothers me.” Michael Moore affirms his emotional response.  Finally, he is ready to speak.  “There is something about that kind of viciousness, that kind of predatory action, that kind of indiscriminate killing”




13.        Exterior of Lockheed Martin in Littleton.  It is the world’s largest weapons maker.  The public relations man we saw earlier explains what goes on in this facility.  There are the missiles behind him.  They employ over 5,000 people—many of whom have children who go to Columbine.  “What happened in Columbine is a microcosm of what happens throughout the world.”  Michael Moore asks him about the signs everywhere in town—“We are Columbine.”  He has the pat answer: “We embody that spirit.  It behooves us to help one another.”  Michael Moore’s voice-over notes that this fellow said no one in Columbine has been able to figure out why the boys “resorted to violence.”  “Why would kids do this?  Some of that may have root in their anger about various issues.”  So, as a good public relations man would do, he praises his company’s $100,000 bequest to anger management programs in the area.  “We hope to help those students alternative way to deal with anger.”  Michael Moore has another tack.  He wonders if kids are violent because they see t heir parents making weapons of mass destruction.  What’s the difference between what Lockheed Martin does and what Harris and friend did? “I don’t see that connection.  The missiles you’re talking about are designed to defend us against aggressors.”  As he continues, Michael Moore cuts to a shot of a sign meant to implore workers not to make production errors: “It has to be foreign object free.”  Obviously, to Michael Moore the sign has multiple meanings.  “We have to learn to deal with that anger.”  Then he concludes, “We don’t irritated with somebody cause we’re mad at ‘em, and drop a bomb or shoot at ‘em—or fire a missile at them.


14.        Cue the montage music—Louis Armstrong singing “It’s a Wonderful World.”  Images that follow: various rulers overthrown by the U. S. Government from the 1950s on, including the P.M. of Iraq (so we could install the Shah), the President of Guatemala, South Vietnamese President, the coup in Chile, the backing of military dictator in El Salvador, training of Osama Bin Laden and other Afghans so they could kick Russia out of their country, funding of the “Contras” in Nicaragua, money given to Saddam so he could defeat Iran in their war, U.S. kicking out Noriega in Panama, invasion of Kuwait by Iraqis (using weapons from US), and the US invasion of Iraq.  At the end of the montage Michael Moore adds in the Clinton bombing of Sudan “weapons factory,” bombing raids over Iraq (no-fly zone), and then shifts back to US aiding the Taliban, and ends with a shot of the second plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers.


15.        At the U.S. Air Force Academy, south of Littleton, we see a shell of a B-52 bomber as a memorial to the North Vietnamese people it killed on Christmas Eve, 1972.   Then Michael Moore’s voice-over continues, as we see images of Rocky Flats, where weapons-grade plutonium was manufactured—now a vast toxic waste dump. A few miles away is NORAD, buried in Cheyenne Mt., the center of all nuclear weapons control in case of a World War.  Then Michael Moore notes that once a month Lockheed transports one of its completed missiles on the highways of Littleton—late in the night.  Moore’s voice-over: “—passing nearby Columbine High School.  The rockets are transported in the middle of the night, while the children of Columbine are asleep.




16.        Graphic on the screen: “April 20, 1999.”  Shots of the bombing of Kosovo, completed by NATO.  Graphic on screen: “Largest one day bombing by U.S. in Kosovo War”—a title that’s more than a little misleading. Then file footage of dead villagers killed when bombs were accidentally dropped on their village. Cut to Pres. Clinton, who says, “We are striking hard at Serbia’s machinery of repression.”  Then we hear a foreign correspondent’s voice saying “on the hit list were a hospital and a local primary school.”  Perfectly unbalanced editing in this segment.  Graphic on the screen: “One Hour Later.”  We see President Clinton again.  “We all know there has been a terrible shooting in a high school in Littleton, Colorado.  I hope the American people will be praying for t he students, and the parents, and the teachers.”


17.        Cue an aural montage—complemented by an acoustic guitar solo—of voices, people calling out of the high school to the police, dispatchers, news reporters, and as we hear this images (with lots of dissolves) to the dead and empty hallways of the high school.  Suddenly Michael Moore cuts to the video monitors that show the various rooms.  We see four monitors at a time and watch the action—looking hard to see the two killers, watching people cower under tables, watch one adult hurl himself through the air to try to evade being shot, watch one of the two killers toss a small bomb into the middle of the room.  As this unfolds, the acoustic guitar plays with increasing urgency, and the aural montage continues—and then adds the voice of Eric Harris’ father, who refers to his son as being in the “trench-coat mafia.”  Then the aural montage ends, the acoustic guitar swells, and Michael Moore adds his voice-over as we shots of people grieving, blood spattered floors, furniture scattered everywhere.  The two students killed twelve fellow students and a teacher. Dozens were wounded.  Over 900 bullets were fired.  Most of the bullets were bought at the local K-Mart.  Cut to a TV reporter on camera who notes that one of the two boys talked about hijacking an airplane and “crashing it into New York City.”  Moore’s voice-over: In the end, they turned the guns on themselves. Some of the students are interviewed.  One recounts that she pleaded with them not to kill her—so they killed the girl next to her.  “And he shot the black kid, because he was black.”




18.        Charlton Heston at an NRA rally.  He holds up a rifle and exclaims, “I have only five words for you!  From my cold dead hands!”  He came to Columbine 10 days later.  There he is at the dais.  He notes he has a message from the Mayor (who happens to be African American)—and the Mayor gets boos from the audience.  “He sent me this.  ‘Don’t come here.  We don’t want you here.’”  What does he say to the mayor?  “This is our country.  As Americans, we’re free to travel where we want in our broad land!”  Applause.  “Don’t come here?  We’re already here!”  Applause.  Cut to a father of a victim of Columbine speaking at an outdoor rally.  Many people hold up signs.  One sign shows the man’s son.  “Something is wrong in this country when a child can grab a gun so easily and shoot a bullet into the middle of a child’s face—as my son experienced. A Tech-9 semi-automatic weapon, 30-bullet weapon, like that that killed my son, is not used to kill deer.  It has no useful purpose.  It is time to address this problem.”  Back to Heston at his rally.  “We have work to do, hearts to heal, evil to defeat, and a country to unite.  When the sun sets on Denver tonight, and forever more—let it always set on “We the People—secure in our land of the free and home of the brave. I, for one, plan to do my part.” 




19.        Michael Moore sits across a table from a young man (in his 30s) outside a fast-food restaurant in Littleton.  He complains about Heston coming to Denver at a time when people were hurting from the horror of Columbine.  “Why would you do that?”  Michael Moore’s voice-over:  This is Matt Stone.  He has fond memories of growing up in Littleton.  Stone notes that Columbine was a “crappy school.”  Moore’s voice-over explains that they two created a cartoon, not carnage.  Cut to scenes from their South Park series—with their trademark more than irreverent humor.  Back to the interview.  Stone emphasizes how “painfully normal” Columbine was.  He recalls the pressure put on him when he was in 6th-grade math.  If he didn’t become an honor student, and go on to take more and more honors math, then “you’ll die poor and lonely!”  The rule was, “If you’re a loser now, you’re going to be a loser forever!”  He recalls that Eric and Dylan, the two killers, were called “fags” by other kids.  “So I’m a fag now and I’ll be a fag forever.  And you wish someone could have grabbed them and said, ‘High school is not the end—’ ”  Michael Moore cuts him off by noting that both kids were going to graduate in 2 months.  Stone concludes by noting how often the cool kids become pedestrian citizens and work their lives out as insurance agents, while the geeks and the nerds go on to do great things. (I suppose he means himself in this case.)




20.         Michael Moore’s voice-over: It still sucks being a teenager, and it really sucks going to school.  We see clips of some students’ videos at Columbine—with students saying inane things to be cool on camera.  Moore’s voice-over: After Columbine, it really sucked being a student in America.  A bass line begins and cues the montage.  We hear various news reports (another aural montage) of kids who broke the rules and were punished.  Anything that smacked of violence was fair game. Then he cuts to another promotional video—this one for a metal detector company.  A mother-figure on camera talks calmly about the need for a “well-enforced dress code.”  As she talks, we see a kid empty his pants of several weapons, including a shotgun. 




21.        Cut to shots of little kids, who in voice-over Michael Moore characterizes as having turned “into little monsters.”  His voice-over:  But who was to blame?  Another montage: of various “experts”—each of whom has the answer: the heavy-metal subculture, parents, violent movies, South Park cartoons, video games, television, entertainment, Satan, cartoons, society, toy guns, drugs, shock rocker Marilyn Manson—and then six times “Marilyn Manson.”


22.        Cut to a news report of Manson canceling the last five days of his national tour out of respect for the families of the Columbine students. “The singer says that artists like himself are not the ones to blame.”  Senator Joe Lieberman on tape: “This is the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company.”  Shots of Marilyn Manson performing—shocking! Moore’s voice-over: The killers listened to Marilyn Manson. Two years later, Manson comes back to Denver.  Reports of protest.  “I thought I’d go and talk with him myself.”  Quick shot of Moore, dressed in his trademark floppy shirt, blue jeans, tennis shoes, and baseball cap, walking behind the arena.  Manson on camera in his dressing room.  “When I was growing up, music was the escape.  That was the only thing that had no judgments.  You put on a record, it’s not going to yell at you for dressing the way you do.  It’s going to make you feel better about it.”  Cut to a protester (Christian conservative, I presume), who speaks to a protest crowd. Will people who listen to Manson go out and commit violent acts?  No!  “But does everybody who watches a Lexus ad go out and buy a Lexus?  No!  But a few do!”  Back to Manson.  He admits that he is “the poster boy for fear.  I represent what everyone’s afraid of.  I do and say what I want.  Back to the protest speaker.  Then Manson again: “The two by-products of that whole tragedy were violence in entertainment and gun control—and how perfect that those were the two things we were going to talk about in the upcoming election.  And then we forgot about Monica Lewinsky, and the President was shooting bombs overseas, yet I’m a bad guy because I sang some rock and roll songs.  Who was the bigger influence?  The President or Marilyn Manson? Here Michael Moore interjects that the same day as Columbine the U.S. (really NATO) dropped more bombs on Kosovo than anytime in the war?  Wide shot of the tiny room—Michael Moore sitting across from Manson.  That latter says,  “You’re being pumped full of fear.  There’s floods, there’s AIDS, buy the Acura, cut to commercial, if you’ve got pimples—nobody’s going to fuck you.  It’s a campaign of fear and consumption.  Keep everyone afraid, and they’ll consume.”  Michael Moore asks, “What would you say to the kids of Columbine.”  Manson answers, “I wouldn’t say a single thing.  I would listen to what they have to say.  And that’s what no one did.”




23.        Here are Amanda and Nicole, both of whom went to Columbine.  They are sitting on the stoop of a house or apartment building.  Michael Moore asks them about the two guys. “We were in their bowling class.”  Moore asks, “Where’s the educational value in this?”  “I learned to bowl better.”  What were the two kids like?  “Not very social.”  When they bowled, one of the girls says they were crazy—they just threw the ball down the lane. Moore’s voice-over: So did Eric and Dylan bowl two games before moving on to shoot up the school?   And did they just chuck the balls down the lane?  Did this mean something?  As archival footage comes up of young women bowling, and falling.  Moore’s voice-over: Why wasn’t anyone blaming bowling for warping the minds of the two boys for doing their evil deeds? Wasn’t it just as plausible as blaming Marilyn Manson?  After all, it was the last thing they did just before the massacre. 





24.        The montage continues (with martial music playing under Michael Moore’s voice-over.  Then he goes on to wonder about all the people in other countries—they go bowling, they listen to rock music, they watch violent movies, play violent video games, etc.  Now he really gets wound up.  Is it poverty?  Is it our Western tradition of clearing the land and destroying indigenous people?  But wait—look at other countries and the violence they have wrought.  Cut to Hitler as a graphic on the screen says, “Germans exterminate 12 million,” and “Japanese occupation of China,” and “French massacre in Algiers,” and “British slaughter in India.”  His voice-over: In spite of all this, how many people are killed by guns each year?  As he recounts the figures, the graphics pop up on the screen (across images from movies, tourist travel films of the countries, and other archival footage: 381 in Germany, 255 in France, 165 in Canada, 68 in the UK, 65 in Australia, 39 in Japan, and 11,127 in the USA. 


25.        There stands Michael Moore next to a father of a child murdered at Columbine.  “Are we homicidal in nature?”  Of course, Moore plays devil’s advocate—bringing up British soccer riots.  But the father is unconvinced.  “What is it about us?”  “What is it?”  They say “What is it?” a few more times, and Michael Moore shrugs his shoulders as the father says, ‘I don’t know.”




26.        Cut to the South Park cartoon’s “A Brief History of the United States of America.” The narrator of the film is a bullet cartoon character.  We see the Pilgrims who were AFRAID of being persecuted.  Off they sail to the New World. But then they were scared of the Natives, and they got scared all over again. “So they killed them all.”  Next they got afraid of each other. Then they burned witches.  Then they killed the British in the Revolutionary War. But they were still afraid.  So here comes the 2nd Amendment, and now every white man can keep his gun.  A new American says, “I loves my gun!” Here comes slavery.  They kidnap Africans and bring them back for slaves.  And the slaves got no money for their work, and America became rich.  But after 200 years of slavery, the white people became afraid of the black people.  But then Samuel Colt in 1836 patents the first six-shooter, and the white people snatched them up.  But it was too late—the Civil War was over, and the slaves were free.  Now the whites were really afraid.  But the slaves took no revenge.  Bu there comes the KKK, and in 1871, the same year the Klan became a terrorist organization, another group, the NRA, was founded.  Now politicians passed a law that made it illegal for a black man to own a gun.  Flash forward to 1955, when Rosa Parks wouldn’t move to the back of the bus.  “Then all hell broke loose”-the Civil Rights movement.  White people were so afraid they all fled to the suburbs.  And then they went out and bought millions of guns, locked themselves behind gates and fences, and felt safe and secure.  “And everyone lived happily ever after.”  Last shot shows the entire family—baby included—holding up a gun.




27.        Image of a house made secure against nuclear attack.  Cue the montage—a dark, menacing bass that runs throughout the scene. Moore’s voice-over: Or did they? as that graphic pops up on the screen. voice-over: If you turn on the evening news, America still seems like a scary place.  Here come the images of people scurrying about, fearful, anxious.  Michael Moore covers the Y2K scare (nothing happened), the killer bees (the bees never came), sabotage of candy at Halloween (only 2 kids in the past four years have been killed by Halloween candy—poisoned by relatives), animals that attack lawn mowers, weight loss supplements that kill, escalators that maim, etc.  Most of the images are from media reports.




28.        Michael Moore walks along a sunny street, a lovely boulevard, with another man.  Then we learn we are in South Central Los Angeles—and Moore mentions that in all the newscasts, the phrase “South Central” is shorthand for awful violence.  The other man is Prof. Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear. “They’re not making it up.  But they’re choosing what they cover.”  Glassner notes that the media focuses on “dangerous black guys.”  Of course, we see several shots of police dealing with such perpetrators.  “And we’ve heard this our whole lives.” 


29.        Cue the montage—this time with violins (a stringed quartet), as Michael Moore drives home, using an aural montage combined with visual montage of one black man after the other—each one representing danger, suspicion, and evil.  Nineteen black men are shown, one right after the other. Of course, none of the men we see are dangerous, suspicious, or evil. But they are black men who happen to be on the street.  Then Moore brings up the woman who drowned her two children and blamed a black man.  Everyone believed her at first because she named a suspect everyone could believe in.  Moore also mentions the man who murdered his wife and then blamed a black man for doing it.  Moore’s voice-over: You know, the thing I love about this country of mine is that whether you’re a psychotic killer or running for President of the United States (the Willie Horton add in 1988), the one thing you can always count on is white America’s fear of the black man.  Then cut to news footage of the killer bees (also known as “Africanized bees”).  Of course, the hidden agenda is that the word “Africanized” is code for African American.  If you’re black, you have to be bad. 




30.        Even worse, as noted by Arthur Busch, Flint, Michigan’s county prosecutor, “The black America has become entertainment for the rest of the community.  If it bleeds, it leads”—and the lead is almost always a crime where the perpetrator is allegedly black. He notes, “Most African Americans are quite averse to gun possession.  He makes the point that white America in their suburbs live in fear of some kind of invasion of savage hordes (as we see racist images of African Americans).  Most of the problems with kids possessing guns are in the suburban schools—not in the urban schools.  Michael Moore notes that most people think it’s just the opposite.


31.        Back we go to Oscoda—and the bar where one of the two young guys we saw earlier talks about stealing a gun and going with some of his friends to downtown Detroit so they could sell the guns to black kids who are in gangs.  But he’s not doing this anymore.  “I can’t keep selling guns.  It’s getting risky, man.  Everybody knows me up there.  If people want guns, or drugs, or alcohol, they come to my house—and that’s just too much.”  Cut to a shot of a stream of police cruisers—obviously after a black perpetrator.  But he professor notes that in his research, while the murder rate went down 20%, the news coverage went up 600%.  Back to the county prosecutor.  “The people are conditioned by the local news to believe that their communities are much more dangerous than they actually are. Here crime has decreased for the past eight years—but handgun ownership is on the increase.  Back to the professor. “Crime rates have been dropping.  Fear of crime has been going up!”  Then we return to South Central with Michael Moore and the professor standing on the corner of Florence and Normandie, the intersection that was ground zero in the riots—after the Rodney King incident—and a quick cut to the horrible moment when a black man hurls a chunk of concrete against a white truck driver’s head and then jumps for joy.  The professor points out that for two men to be in South Central is no big deal.  They won’t be mugged or killed.  But the pollution all around them is a greater danger than being attacked by black men. 


The professor points out that for two men to be in South Central is no big deal.  They won’t be mugged or killed.  But the pollution all around them is a greater danger than being attacked by black men.  Now Michael Moore has an idea—to ask a reporter about doing a story on the pollution.  The reporter laughs and goes along with the idea.  Then Michael Moore asks another reporter about what stories typically lead the local news, and the answer is, “The guy with the gun.”  Then Moore asks a couple of cops to arrest someone “who is polluting up the air.”  “Absolutely not,” the cop says, and then walks away.




32.        A cop in a night scene chases a perpetrator—a black man—and several cops surround the guy who is face down in the grass. Moore’s voice-over: For over a decade there has been one show on American television that has brought black and white people together in an effort to reduce our fears and celebrate our diversity.  Obviously, an ironic statement!  Cue the music for Cops!  We see a couple of quick shots from the television series, as Moore continues in his voice-over, explaining that he went to see a former producer of the television program.  There he sits in an office.  The producer, who characterizes himself as a card-carrying liberal, as he listens to Moore ask him why not make a show that focuses on the causes of crime—rather than the car chases and fleeing-suspect-chases of the current crop of shows.  His answer: “I don’t know what that show would be.  Anger does well, hate does well, violence does well.”  That seems to the nature of the ratings-dominated business.  Moore brings up the idea of how shows like this contribute to the demonizing of black and Hispanic people.  Moore wonders if people will say, “I hate those people now; they may hurt me”?  “I know what you’re saying.  I’m not sure that’s what we’re doing.”  He admits that the program may show more black and Hispanic criminals than white criminals—but he says, “We’re not trying to demonize them.”  Then he says he would like to see that reversed as soon as possible.  “Start tonight,” Moore encourages him.  “The thing is, I don’t know how to start tonight.  I don’t know how to tell that story.”  So Moore pitches him the pilot for Corporate Cops.  Cut to seven quick shots of Michael Moore dressed in a blue coat and a blue cap with the word POLICE on it—as he goes about looking for corporate criminals.  The producer plays along with the idea, but he says, “I don’t think it would make interesting reality television, unless we can get those people to get into their SUV’s and drive really fast away from the police. But Moore keeps pushing the idea.  There he is again—a close-up of him wearing dark sunglasses with his grizzled beard, and then a close-up of a corporate crook—right there on the street.  Then another seven quick shots of Moore chasing him, pushing him up against a car, and then dropping him face down on the sidewalk—the tough cop taking care of the white-collar criminal!   The producer makes the point that it’s tough to compare the crook who steals $85 from an old woman’s purse and the criminal who steals $85 million from poor people.  “It’s not good television.”  Then the producer compares violence not happening in Canada vs. violence really happening in the U.S.  “I’d like to find out what that difference is.”  Moore says, “Yeah, I’m trying to find out!”




33.        Three Canadian teenagers stand outside a Taco Bell in Ontario.  All are skipping school, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal.  Moore asks them all the gun murders in America.  “I have no idea.  People must hate each other.”  When Moore wonders if Canadians hate each other too, the young man says, “We don’t go to the point of shootin’ somebody just to get revenge.”  What do they do, then?  “Tease ‘em, ridicule ‘em.”  Cut to a shot of a police officer sitting behind his desk at the station.  Moore asks, how many gun murders this year?  None.  Last year?  One.  This is Sarnia, Canada, population 73,000.  So how about Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit?  Windsor’s a city of 250,000.  How many murders?  Not for at least three years.  Moore’s voice-over: There were no Canadians shooting other Canadians.  Now it’s time to dispel some myths about Canadians!  In turn, Moore discloses that Canadian youth watch more violent television and movies than Americans do, there is more unemployment in Canada than in the US, and Canada has a diverse population—13% non-white.  All of this is to set up the next point.  We see a gun range in Windsor, and Moore talks to a few guys about the guns they own.  Most own several guns. Then for the second time we see the Mayor of the city of Sarnia in his office, and he talks about the hunting heritage of Canadians, and so it would not be unexpected that Canadians own lots of guns.  Then a guy sitting in a car (who is he?) delivers the statistic that out of 10 million families in Canada there are 7 million guns.  Cut to the gun range.  Moore’s voice-over: Wow!  Canada was one gun-loving, gun-totin’, gun-crazy country.  Then he talks to a few people who tell him how easy it would be to buy a gun in Canada.  Off he goes to a K-Mart in Canada and buys as much ammunition as he wants. 




34.        He keeps the cinema verite style moving: we keep seeing the people he is interviewing and hear him ask the questions before they answer them.   He finds two people in bars and asks them if they lock their doors.  Nope.  He learns that both of them have suffered break-ins.  But do they lock their doors now?  Nope.  Cut to Moore standing outside, looking around as if confused.  He is in Toronto, and he is obsessed with this idea of people not locking their doors.  He approaches a guy at a sidewalk café.  “You don’t lock your doors?”  Nope. The guy explains, “You think as Americans the lock is keeping people out of your place. We as Canadians see it as when we lock the door we’re imprisoning ourselves.”  Cut to Moore on the street in Toronto.  His voice-over: I decided to go a neighborhood unannounced and see if this unlocked door thing was true.  We watch him approach and open three doors.  The last one he says, “No one locks their doors!”  He talks to another woman at her front door—she isn’t afraid.  And then he ends by talking to the man at the third house—and apologizes for opening the door unannounced. 


35.        He notes, in a local bar, that the television news programs Canadians watch seem a bit different from U.S. programs—because they feature articulate politicians saying serious things about policy.  Moore’s voice-over; Night after night, the Canadians were not being pumped full of fear.  And their politicians seem to talk kinda funny.  We return to the mayor of Sarnia, who talks about the importance of social programs.  “That’s how you build a good society.”  In another scene, he talks on camera: “You don’t win by beating up on people who can’t defend themselves.”  Then he makes a pointed comment about political conservatives like President Bush—“and at the same time they are giving tax breaks to people who don’t need them.”  Another young man on camera responds to Moore’s question, “Where do the indigent people live?”  He shakes his head.  “We don’t have that problem here.” Then Moore takes us to where poor people live—a two and three-story housing area, nice brick buildings lit by the afternoon sun. Moore’s voice-over: This is what a slum looks like in Canada. Then back to the kids in front of Taco Bell.  Moore asks them “Why should people have health care?”  Their answer, “Everyone’s got the right to live.”  Moore spots a man outside an emergency room.  He has numerous stitches across his forehead.  How much did he pay for this treatment?  Nothing.  Then back to one of the two people in the bar, the middle-aged blonde woman.  She notes that in the U.S. the response is to “pull their gun at ‘em.  You’re on my property.”  Then we spot Moore back at the midway at the spot in Windsor, and there he is talking to a black man, from Detroit, visiting for the night. Another black man says, “People over here are a little more open-minded, a little more welcoming.”  Later he adds, “Segregation is more intensified over there.”  Back to the kids at Taco Bell.  The girl says, “I just think the view of things in the States is fighting.  Canada is more, ‘Let’s negotiate.  Let’s work something out.’  Where the States is just ‘We’ll kill you—and that’ll be the end of that.”   Back to the guy who is shown riding in the front seat of a car.  “If guns made people safer, then the United States would be one of the safest countries in the world.  It’s the opposite.




36.        Screen fades to black.  Now Moore uses graphics on the screen as we listen to the 911 call that came from Buell Elementary School in Flint, Michigan, when a little 6-year-old girl was shot and killed by her classmate.  The teacher becomes increasingly despondent as she talks to the dispatcher, and finally she wails, “Please Lord! Please Lord!  Please Lord!”  Cut to Michael Moore in the hallway of the school talking to the principal, an elegantly-dressed African American woman. She recalls that when the police came in, “You’re no longer in control.”  Camera stays on both of them. Then an exterior of the school, as Moore’s voice-over reveals that the school was in Flint, Michigan, his old hometown.  The boy found a gun at his uncle’s house, brought it to school, and shot the girl.  Cut to a tiny plastic elementary school chair.  Moore’s voice-over: With one bullet, that passed through her body, she fell to the floor and laid their dying, while her teacher called 911 for help.  No one knew why the little boy wanted to shoot the little girl.  Flint was now home to a new record—the youngest school shooting ever in the United States.  Cut to the flowers left at the entrance to the school.  Cut to the media remote news vans.  Moore’s voice-over: On the morning of the shooting, it only took the helicopters and satellite trucks a half hour to show up on the scene.  Then Moore shows us several reporters making their remote spots.  He focuses on one young male reporter who barks at his producer after taping his spot.  “We’re having technical problems—okay?”  The camera stays on him as he chats breezily with one of the assistants.  Later, we see this same reporter sitting on the edge of the remote van while an editor cuts his spot.  He complains that “some networks that unfortunately go from tragedy to tragedy.  I feel bad for them, because that’s all they see.”  Camera pans right inside the van and shows a small photograph of the little girl taped there. 


37.        Moore begins a long voice-over.  The B-roll for the voice-over is in parentheses.  Throughout the B-roll we hear piano music playing quietly under the voice.


(Panning shot of rows of reporters, camera operators, remote trucks in a parking lot) The national media had never visited Buell elementary or this part of Flint ever before.  And few if any of these reporters bothered to visit it even when they were here now.  If they had ventured just a block away from the school, they might have seen a different kind of tragedy that would have contained some answers as to why this little girl was dead.  (Closed General Motors factory)  For over 20 years, this impoverished area, in the hometown of the world’s largest corporation, had been ignored as completely as it had been destroyed. With 87% of the students living below the official poverty line, Flint did not fit into the accepted and widely circulated storyline (shots of abandoned buildings)  put forth by the nation’s media—that being the one about America and its invincible economy.  (Pawn shop and abandoned buildings) The number one cause of death of young people in this part of Flint was homicide.  (Street signs with names like Princeton and Harvard) Years ago someone named the streets in this part of town after all the Ivy League schools, as if they dreamed of better days and something greater for themselves.


38.        Back to the principal of Buell Elementary School.  She is shown walking along the corridor with Moore, who is hunched over, one of his hands up on the side of his face. Suddenly she stops, and she seems to fight for self-control.  “I don’t want it to happen to anybody else, either,” he mumbles. As soon as she fights off the tears, he is ready with, “It’s okay,” and tries to reach out to her.  She turns around and begins to walk away.  He puts his hand on her back and begins to rub it, repeating, “That’s okay.”  Then he sobs, “I’m sorry!” 




39.        Before this image cuts away, we hear Charlton Heston’s voice: “From my cold dead hand!”  and see him on stage.  Moore’s voice-over: Just as he had done after the Columbine shooting, Charlton Heston showed up in Flint to have a big pro-gun rally.  “Freedom has never seen greater peril,” Heston says to his audience.  Then we hear from a protestor—a woman who is against the NRA.  Then Heston is on camera again, this time answering a local reporter’s question about why the NRA came to Flint.  Of course, Heston talks about gun safety issues for children.  “You see a gun, don’t touch it.  Leave the room.  Call an adult.”  


Then back to the county prosecutor we met earlier. “And then Moses himself showed up!”  The prosecutor relates stories of the pressure he received from townspeople and across the country who wanted to “string up” the 6-year-old boy who shot the little girl.  He refers to these people as “gun nuts.”  He says, “They wanted this boy hung from the highest tree.  There was such an undercurrent of racism and hate.  It was ugly.”  Then we see Moore standing next to a police detective who brought in the little boy after the shooting.  He gave the kid some crayons, and the little boy drew a picture for the man and asked him to put it on his wall.  (The boy had seen drawings of the man’s children already on the wall.) What is the picture.  The boy standing outside his house.  The drawing does not seem to illuminate anything about the boy’s context—it’s just a drawing of him outside his house.  Moore asks why he hung the picture on the wall.  The cop answers the question and then says, “That’s where it’ll stay.”




40.        Cut to the little boy’s mother entering the courtroom.  Moore’s voice-over: In order to get food stamps and health care for her children (close-up, slow motion, of the mother), she was forced to work as part of the state of Michigan’s welfare to work program. This program was so successful at tossing poor people off welfare that its founder, Gerald Miller, was hired by the number one firm in the country that states turn to privatize their welfare systems. That firm was Lockheed Martin.  (Now Moore’s story seems to have come full circle—from Lockheed in Columbine to Lockheed affecting Flint.) Lockheed had found the perfect way to diversify, the perfect way to profit from people’s fear—from an enemy much closer to home—poor black mothers—like Tamarla Owens (close-up of the mother in the courtroom.  She is crying.)


41.        Cut to a well-dressed man sitting behind his desk.  He complains about a program that sends single-mothers 60 miles one way to work.  “How does that help a community?”  He scoffs at this kind of system.  And he is the sheriff of Flint, Michigan!  “I wish I could put two parents in every home, and make them equally responsible—but you can’t do that!”  Cut to a bus that is driving through streets early in the morning.  Moore’s voice-over: This is the bus she was forced to ride every morning in order to work off the welfare money the state had given her.  She and many others from Flint who were poor would make the 80-mile round trip journey every day from Flint to Auburn Hills.  (Cut to the beautiful suburban hones with big lawns.)  She would leave early in the morning and return late at night—rarely seeing her young children.  Back to the sheriff: “What’s the point in doing that?  Where does the state benefit? Where does Flint benefit from that? I think that may be part of the problem!  We drove the one parent out!”  Back to the bus we go—and Moore interviews two of the riders.  One man has been riding the bus for three years.  “Half my neighborhood works out here in the mall.”  He gets $3 more per hour.  That’s why he spends the time in traveling to and fro on the bus.  Did he know the mother?  “She was a nice lady.  She came to work every day.  She worked two jobs. She was trying to make ends meet.”


42. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill in a big mall in Oakland Hills.  That’s where the mother worked (and a second job in the fudge shop).  Moore’s voice-over explains who Dick Clark is—and then Moore sneaks in a low blow by slipping in a photograph of Clark with Bob Hope and Charlton Heston.  One of the employees of the Grill refers to Clark’s trademark line: “Music is the soundtrack of your life.”  Moore notes in voice-over that Clark applied for special tax breaks by hiring welfare-to-work clientele.  Moore’s voice-over: Even though the mother worked up to 70 hours a week at these two jobs, she did not earn enough to pay her rent, and one week before the shooting was told by her landlord that he was evicting her.  She asked her brother if he could take her in for a few weeks.  It was there her son found a small .32 caliber gun and took it to school.  His mother did not see him take the gun because she was on a bus to go serve drinks and make fudge for rich people.


43.        Shot of the palm trees and wide avenues of Los Angeles. Moore’s voice-over: I decided to fly out to California to ask Dick Clark what he thought about a system that forces single mothers to work two low-wage jobs to survive.  Cut to an awkward shot, the camera behind Moore, as he leans on the van where Dick Clark is safely huddled inside.  Moore tries to explain the context of his documentary, and he mentions the six-year-old that shot a six-year-old.  “Get in the car, Dave!” Clark yells at his associate, standing off camera to the left. “We’re really late.”  Moore keeps talking.  “But the mother of the kid works at Dick Clark’s Grill—” and Clark cuts him off.  “Forget it.  Close the door!”  “These people are forced to work—Dick—I want you to help me convince the Governor of Michigan— ”  But Clark yells, “Come on!  We’re going!” and the woman next to him in the backseat slides the van door closed.  Moore continues, “—that the welfare-to-work—these women are forced to work.”  The van drives off.  “They’ve got kids at home.  Dick!  Ah, Jeez!” as he turns around.




44.        Cut to President Bush, all dressed up in his flight jacket and addressing a military crowd at a rally. Moore’s voice-over: In George Bush’s America the poor were not a priority.  And after September 11, 2001,  correcting America’s social problems took ja back seat to fear, panic and a new set of priorities!  Back to Bush, speaking to the military folks.  He asks everyone to make “the defense of the United States the number 1 priority and fully fund my request.”  Now as this scene unfolds, hard-driving music begins to pound under the shots.  Cut to a shot of people running in panic on the streets.  Music continues, and now we hear from people selling chemical suits, weapons, ammunition, and then a reference that at Wal-Mart gun sales were up 70% after terrorism struck America.  Moore’s voice-over: In the months following the 9-11 acts, we Americans were gripped in a state of fear.  None of us knew who would die at the hands of the evildoers (cut to an old black and white silent film of an evil-looking sheik) or who might be sitting next to some crazy guy about to light his shoes on fire.  (Shots of guns sold) The threats seemed very real. Our growing fears were turned into a handsome profit for many. (Increased sales of home security devices)   Suddenly we jump back to Professor Glassner, author of A Culture of Fear again. “Why are we afraid of all these things? A lot of people are making a lot of money off of it and a lot of careers off of it.”  And then really unfair cuts to images of Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Ashcroft, key components of Michael Moore’s axis of evil.  Moore’s voice-over focuses on the record defense contracts handed out by the Bush Administration.  The montage music keeps right on booming.  Moore’s voice-over: And the greatest benefit of a terrorized public is that the corporate and political leaders get away with just about anything.  More muckraking by Moore as he cuts to a clip from Fritz Hollings, senator from South Carolina: “I’ve never seen a better example of cash and carry government than this Bush administration—and Enron.”  Back to Moore’s voice-over: One thing is clear—a public that is this out of control with fear should not have a lot of guns and ammo laying around.




45.        Wide shot of a young man in a wheelchair. “I was shot with a Tech-9.  It was supposed to be semi-automatic, but it seemed like fully automatic to me.”  In Moore’s voice-over he introduces us to Richard, this young man, and Mark, another young man—both of whom were shot at Columbine by the two killers.  Richard is a paraplegic, and Mark had numerous operations.  They show off the scars from the bullets.  Mark says, “The kids at Columbine had to pay a penalty that day—for the nation.”  Several 17-cent K-Mart bullets are still in their bodies. Image of the back of Richard’s body—with tiny brown-tipped scars where bullets entered his body.  Moore’s voice-over: I thought of one way we could reduce the number of guns and bullets laying around. I asked the boys if they would like to go back to K-Mart and return the merchandise.  We don’t really see him ask the boys—we are given quick shots of Michael Moore with the two young men.


46.        Cut to first-person camera, as someone gets out of a car and we hear, “You ready?”  “You go.”  Suddenly we are off—in blinding white light-until the camera reaches the doorway of K-Mart headquarters in Troy, Michigan.  Suddenly we are inside, and there is Richard in his wheelchair. A production assistant and Mark help Richard up the steps in his chair.  Someone at the central kiosk tells them to shut the camera off.  Sure.  Cut to an hour later and the camera is back on and here comes the director of media relations to talk to Michael Moore.  He introduces the two young men.  “They’re students from Columbine high school.  There were shot at Columbine in the massacre with bullets purchased at K-Mart.”  As soon as she hears this, she changes her tone and says, “You came a long way.”  Richard says, “You stopped selling the handguns; it sorta makes sense to stop selling the bullets, too.”  Mark speaks up, too. “Our request is that you get rid of the 9-millimetr bullets.”  Her response: K-Mart only carries sporting firearms.  She says she will take the message to the CEO and then asks for Michael Moore’s business card.  Of course, he’s been down this road before—in Roger and Me.  He doesn’t want to give her ac card.  He wants action. “To be blunt, Mark has a K-Mart bullet an inch away from his aorta.”  Then an urgency sets into his voice: “I told them that somebody here would listen—would take their request seriously. Not a PR person, but somebody who has some authority to answer some of the questions they want answered. “K-Mart does care about this,” she says. Suddenly the conversation seems to be over.  Now Mary is conspiring with two other executives—off to the side—and then Moore announces that two hours later she came back down with the merchandiser—the guy who buys the bullets for K-Mart. “Stay out of trouble,” we hear him say.  “We’re not the ones in trouble,” Moore shoots back. Mark lifts his shirt and shows the men his bullet wounds. “From your bullets.  That’s where the K-Mart bullets went in.”  But nothing else happens.  The merchandiser goes back upstairs.  Moore’s voice-over: We waited around for a couple of hours, but no one else came down.  As we left the building, Mark came up with an idea: go to the nearest K-Mart and buy out all their bullets.  (One problem here is that two of the production assistants lurk in the background of shots—and it’s hard to know who they are or what they are doing there.)




47.        So the next shot shows Mark inside a store and buying two bags of bullets.  Then we see him leaving the store—the two plastic sacks in his hand.  Moore’s voice-over: The next day we decided to go back to K-Mart’s headquarters with all the bullets.  This time we bought the local press.  Suddenly a hoard of reporters and photographers can be seen following Moore and his entourage.  Then a quick clip from a local news program notes the two boys from Columbine are “very angry with K-Mart.”  Moore is back inside the headquarters again, and a security man says, “Always a pleasure seeing you.”  While the security men huddle behind the counter, Moore holds up a bullet and says loudly, “These are the bullets that are in both Mark and Richard’s body right now.  Quick cut to Richard, sitting quietly in his chair—and three boxes of ammunition in his lap. A K-Mart authority figure orders them outside—and not to block the doors.  So now we go outside, with all the cameras rolling.  A woman introduces herself and says she has a statement on behalf of the company.  “What happened in Columbine was truly tragic and touched every American.”  She looks over toward Richard, who is off camera.  “We are truly sorry for the disadvantage to this young man.  K-Mart is phasing out the sale of handgun ammunition.  The business plan calls for this to be complete in the next 90 days.”  Reaction shot of Moore.  “Wow!” he says.   He looks around. 


48.        The spokesperson continues, “K-Mart representatives met with Mr. Moore and the students from Columbine yesterday and listened to their concerns about the products carried in K-Mart stores.”  Moore shakes hands with the spokesperson.  “We want to thank you for committing to no longer selling handgun ammunition—and within 90 days—“ and she confirms that K-Mart won’t sell it after 90 days. She turns to leave, and Moore begins to clap (and we hear some other clapping).  “That blows my mind!” he says, as the students, and two production assistants, look on. “That’s more than what we asked for.”  He and Mark share a few laughs, Moore reaches out to embrace Richard, and we go to Moore’s voice-over: The kids from Columbine had scored an overwhelming victory against K-Mart, and it inspired me to do something that I had to do.  Back to L.A.: All I needed was a star map. 




49.        Next shot is Moore walking up to a locked gate, the estate of Charlton Heston.  He reaches down and pushes a white button.  We hear the sound of a phone ringing.  This is shot through the front windshield of the production vehicle.  The image shows Moore dressed in his blue jeans, oversized coat, and baseball cap.  He wears basketball shoes.  Charlton Heston answers the phone.  Michael Moore bends down and talks to him.  “This is Michael Moore, the filmmaker?”  Heston acknowledges him. He tells Heston he is making a documentary about “the whole gun issue.”  “I may be able to give you some time tomorrow.”  Heston sits a meeting at 8:30 in the morning.


50.        Graphic on the screen.  8:30 the next morning.  There is Michael Moore again.  This time he doesn’t talk directly to Charlton Heston.  Why did he reach him directly the night before?  The gate swings open, and to the music of the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Theme, the burly Moore saunters past the gate. As he walks up the drive, we can see Heston in the distance. Heston walks a bit awkwardly, as if measuring his steps carefully, and the two men reach out and shake hands. This is set up as a point of view shot—from Moore’s point of view.  Heston is shown on the left of the frame.  He sits in a high director’s chair—easier to get into and out of when one is frail.  Moore sits on the right of the frame, turned toward Heston—and the shot is a modified point of view shot.

  • Moore shows him his lifetime NRA card.
  • “Good for you!” Heston says. Then he reaches over and touches Moore on the wrist, as if to affirm his good sense.
  • “You’ve got guns in the house?”
  •  “Indeed I do.  Bad guys take notice.”  Heston smiles broadly and then laughs.
  •  “So you have them for protection.”   Heston admits that he has never been a victim of crime. He also admits the guns are loaded. 
  • As he says, “If you really need a weapon for self-defense, you need it loaded.”
  • “Why do you need it for self-defense?”
  • “I don’t,” he admits. 
  • So Moore goes for the next level.  So why keep loaded guns at all? 
  • “The 2nd Amendment gives me that right.” 
  • “I totally agree,” Moore says—a bit deceptively I would think. 
  • “You could say it’s a comfort factor.”   Then he adds, ”I’m exercising one of the rights passed on down to me from those wise old dead white guys who invented this country. If it's good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.”
  • But why exercise that right to have a gun?
  •  “I choose to have it,” Heston says. 
  • (Note: the clock behind Moore reads 6:03.  But the meeting was supposed to be at 8:30.) Then Moore shifts the subject again.  He brings up Canada.  Here’s a country with a low murder rate and yet there are 7 million guns in 10 million homes. 
  • “There won’t be very long.”  
  • Moore stays on task.  He wants Heston to answer the question of why Canadians have all those guns and yet have such a low crime rate.
  • “I think American history has a lot of blood on its hands,” Heston says.
  • Moore vehemently disagrees that Americans are any more violent that other people around the world.       Think of the Germans.  Think of the British.  
  • Heston cuts him off.  “It’s an interesting point, one that could be explored—and you’re good to explore it. But that’s about all I have to say.”
  •             “You don’t have an opinion as to why we are the only country that kills each other on this level with guns?
  •             “Well, we have probably a more mixed ethnicity than other countries.”
  •             “You think it’s an ethnic thing?
  •             “No, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.”  (Of course, Moore has him right where he wants him now.) “We had enough problems with Civil Rights in the beginning--but I have no answer forthat—“
  •             Moore won’t give up.  “What do you mean, you think it’s a mixed ethnicity?”
  •             Now Heston looks a little defensive, a bit anxious. He goes over the question Moore asks him. Moore asks him to repeat his answer.  “We have a history of violence, perhaps more than moscountries—certainly more than Canada.”
  •             Now Moore slips in the reference to Flint, Michigan, and the six-year-old boy who shot his classmate.  “After that happened, you came to Flint and held a big rally.” 
  •             “So did the Vice-President,” and Heston laughs.
  •             But Moore keeps at him. “Did you feel that it was being at all insensitive that this community had just gone through a tragedy—“
  •             “—I wasn’t aware of that at the time.”
  •             “Had you known would you have—“
  •             “—Would I have canceled?  I don’t—I can’t say.”
  •             “The choice to come there was made after this horrible killing took place.  Had you known that, would you have come?
  •             “I don’t know.  I have no idea.”
  •             “Maybe not?”
  •             “Maybe not.” It’s time to stop.  Heston reaches out to shake hands, and at that moment Moore slips in a quick jab of a question: “Do you think you would like to apologize to the people of Flint for coming there and doing that at that time?"
  •             Heston is a bit taken aback. “You want me to apologize—me—apologize to the people of Flint?"
  •             “Or for the people in Columbine for coming after their horrible tragedy.  Why do you
  • go to the places after they have these horrible tragedies?”  (You can see Heston processing this and making up his mind to leave.) “I’m a member of your group here—“
  •             “Yup.  Well, I’m afraid we don’t agree on that.”  He stands up from the director’s chair he was sitting in. 
  •             “You think it’s okay to just come and show up at these events—“ His eyes follow Heston as the man walks in front of him.  As he passes by Moore, Heston reaches out and pats Moore on his right shoulder.
  •             “You don’t think it’s okay.”  But Heston is already past him. The camera pans right and captures Heston walking stiffly away from Moore and out of the pool house. The old man swings his arms awkwardly at his side, and he walks with a permanent stoop. Swish pan to the left. —but the camera does not return to Moore for a reaction.


51.        Moore follows Heston down a sidewalk toward the man’s house. “Mr. Heston, one more thing.”  Heston turns around.  “This is who she is—or was.”  Moore holds up a photograph of the dead six-year-old.  This is her—please don’t leave!  (If he is using only one camera, he is cheating here—because there is a cut to him holding the picture rather than a pan.  And when we return to the pov shot, we can see Moore’s body on the right, but we can’t tell if he is holding up the photograph or not.) Heston walks away, and this time he does not turn around. “Mr. Heston. Please.  Take a look at her!”  Cut to Moore holding the picture.  “This is the girl.”   (We do get one swish pan from him holding the picture up and Heston far in the distance. This confirms for me that he cheated by giving the impression that Heston looked back at a short distance and saw him holding the photograph.  In the real time of the moment, he didn’t have time to arrange the photograph so that Heston saw it when he turned around—from twenty feet away.)


Now that Heston has gone into his house, Moore walks over to a spot near the entrance of the house and places the little girl’s picture Pagainst a column—that way, Heston will have to look at her sometime.  Then he walks away, toward the camera, with that signature hangdog look and slumped shoulders.  Hard rock music cues.




52.        Moore’s voice-over: I left the Hestons’ estate in Beverly Hills and walked back into the real world—an America living and breathing in fear.  Quick shot from movie stock footage of a panicked crowd running through the street.  Cut to Moore standing next to a young tattooed man wearing a baseball cap that says, “Fuck everybody.”  He asks the guy what does he imagine the person to look like who would break into his house.  The answer?  “You . .  . him . . . the camera guy . . . anybody—you could have a gun in the camera.”  Moore’s voice-over: —where gun sales were now at an all-time high— Cut to a guy with a thick German accent demonstrating an assault rifle as he says, “Can shoot as fast as a semi-automatic. Cut to a shot of the Littleton exit sign.  —and where, in the end, it all comes back to bowling for Columbine.  Cut to a map of a crime scene at the Broadway Bowl in Littleton.  We hear a news report summarizing the killing of thee people in the bowling alley.  Then we see Michael Moore talking to an employee, who says “three people died—“ and Moore finishes it with his voice-over: —in Littleton, in a bowling alley.  Back to the quick interview with the employee.  “I’m sorry,” Michael Moore says.  Then a quick shot of a GI Joe doll holding an American flag. Moore’s voice-over: Yes, it was a glorious time to be an American.  Cut to Michael Moore, wearing shorts this time, and hurling a bowling ball down a lane in a bowling alley.  Camera pans right, and he gets a strike.  Up comes the closing credits music—What a Wonderful World, as sung in a restrained heavy metal version by Joey Romano.


Film resource written by Robert Yahnke
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke,  © 2009
Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
Request permission from the author to reprint this resource--for educational use only

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