Anyone familiar with Michael Moore‘s body of work will know he is keen on blending poignant social commentary with acerbic wit, and Fahrenheit 11/9 is no exception.

In his latest film, writer-director Moore primarily addresses President Donald Trump‘s ascent to power, although to say the movie exclusively tackles this subject would be an oversimplification. Ultimately, it seems that what Moore really sets out to do in his latest documentary is to analyze many of the issues plaguing the United States, what caused them and their significance in the Trump era. The Oscar-winning director of Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko and Bowling for Columbine uses his trademark candor, impressive investigative reporting and strong understanding of world history to draw comparisons between present-day America and other time periods, like Nazi-era Germany.

Perhaps some of the most eye-opening parts of Fahrenheit 11/9 are all the scenes centered on the lead-infected water crisis that struck Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, in 2014, an issue that is discussed at length in the film. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that a native of the town would be able to offer such a detailed exploration of how this catastrophe came about, and how severely it has marred the lives of Flint residents ever since. The grotesque levels of corruption in the administration of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder — a former chairman and interim of CEO of Gateway computers who had no previous experience in public office before being elected in 2011 — and other local politicians and special interest groups responsible for poisoning the water are jaw-dropping.

Moore shows that he is not afraid to take the gloves off in this project: he is even shown attempting to make a citizen’s arrest of Snyder and hosing down (literally) the governor’s mansion with water from Flint. Following a series of interviews with medical workers, the Flint sheriff, political leaders and other community members — as well as his participation in protests in the area — Moore demonstrates how far he went to let the media and the country know the amount of lasting damage the water crisis had on the people of Flint. The filmmaker emphasizes at one point that this was not just a water issue, but also a “poverty crisis” and a “racial crisis,” and everything he shows proves exactly this: Snyder’s preference for big corporations like General Motors led to hundreds and thousands of the town’s low-income and African-American residents to fall ill or die because of the lead contained in their drinking water.


What does the case of Flint have to do with Trump? The plight of the town’s residents was one of the dozens of issues raised during the 2016 election, but more importantly, Trump explicitly voiced his support for Snyder and was the only candidate from either party during the presidential race to visit Flint. Moore explains that the former Apprentice host was essentially able to poison the minds of Americans in much the same way Snyder poisoned his constituents’ bodies. From the media’s obsessive, ratings-driven coverage of Trump since he first launched his campaign in June 2015 to now, Moore also explores how journalistic values and integrity have been compromised since the rise to power of Trump, whom he calls “the last president of the United States.”

After opening with shots of rallies for both Trump and Hillary Clinton on November 8, 2016 — the day of the election — and comparing the atmospheres of both bases of supporters, Moore first shows the  horrified reactions of liberal America to how the country voted that night, and then returns to when Trump first emerged onto the scene three years ago, but not before asking via voice-over: “How the f— did this happen?”

Moore subsequently demonstrates how Trump, his administration, and several other prominent Republican leaders went on take advantage of millions of people across the country. Just like he called out the George W. Bush administration and special interest groups for leading to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Moore shows how Trump has exacerbated many of the problems America had already been facing for decades, although mostly three of them: racism, sexism and xenophobia. Through jarring footage of white conservatives verbally harassing, insulting or at times even physically assaulting immigrant minorities, Moore shows how Trump and his closes allies have normalized bigotry in the most horrific ways (in addition to spreading lies and disinformation and gradually doing away with many norms associated with democracy). The analogies between Trump’s appearance on the political scene and the ascent of Adolf Hilter in 1930s Germany, the rise of the Third Reich and the Nazis also adds a dose of fear to the audience. Soundbites of Hispanic immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border and images of families being torn apart during World War II also provide a stunning reminder of just how familiar today’s current events are.

Moore’s film doesn’t let liberals off the hook either. The filmmaker shows how the elites of the Democratic Party robbed Bernie Sanders of the nomination in 2016 through misleading information, superdelegates at the convention and other tools. More importantly, Moore explains how previously Democratic presidents and their administrations — most notably Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — inadvertently helped fuel the emergence of Trump through a series of economic and foreign policy decisions that led to millions of Americans becoming angry and disillusioned with establishment candidates, fearful of those from backgrounds other than their own, and apathetic about voting and other political engagement processes.

Fahrenheit 11/9 feels disjointed at times, although it’s possible Moore did this intentionally to reflect the disastrous times we live in. Perhaps one of the documentary’s few flaws was that it did not explain more about the Electoral College, which Moore briefly says he is opposed to and calls a “vestige.” However, the director appears to make up for this with his extensive use of facts and statistics, as well as his in-depth look at events like the Flint water crisis, teacher strikes in West Virginia and Wisconsin, and the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Moore’s latest project certainly seems like a dystopian sci-fi film at times, and perhaps that is exactly what is most terrifying: the fact that this nightmare has become a reality.

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