“How the fuck did we get here?” asks Michael Moore at the start of his new documentary-cum-raging leftist polemic Fahrenheit 11/9, reflecting on the night Donald Trump was named 45th President of the United States. Exploring the answers to that question over the ensuing two hours, he leaves implicit another, more tantalising question: “How the fuck do we fix this?”
A lot of territory covered will be familiar both to Moore fans and to anyone keeping half an eye on the American news cycle. Working-class disenfranchisement, delegitimisation of the media, othering of divergent groups and brazen distraction facets all play a role here.
But we already know this, even when delivered with Moore’s bravura editing and wit – and the movie is nothing if not simultaneously thrilling, hilarious and horrifying, as his best work always is. When he moves away from the bigger picture and zeroes in on a few select examples of life under Trump and how citizens are now responding as their government collapses inwards, Fahrenheit 11/9 excels.
A deeply personal case study for Moore is the water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, where residents have been slowly poisoned by lead-laced water since 2014 thanks to insidious hyper-conservative, proto-authoritarian policy.
Spotlighting key figures of the new American resistance – Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, striking teachers in West Virginia or the gun control activism of pupils from the Stoneman Douglas school shooting – Moore proves himself an ally of great calibre.
Self-reflective, deferential to a new generation and angrier than ever, Moore’s work is at its best when it moves away from Trump – an easy target. Telling the stories of real people in a sick America serves to show that, if action is taken now, there just might be a cure.
DIRECTOR: Michael Moore
WRITER: Michael Moore
SYNOPSIS: Filmmaker Michael Moore examines the current state of American politics, particularly the Donald J. Trump presidency and gun violence, while highlighting the power of grassroots democratic movements.