On April 4, 1968, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. Michael Moore remembers attending Mass that day in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, when he was 13. When the news broke, a cheer rose throughout the congregation. “It burned a hole right through my head, and it’s never left me,” says Moore.
His youth in Michigan creates plenty of fodder for “Bowling for Columbine,” a documentary about gun violence in America. Moore, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, questions why our right to bear arms translates into a need to bear arms. Or, in other words, what do we need protection from?
Responding to an ad in a Michigan newspaper, Moore receives a free rifle for opening a new account at a local bank. As he leaves, Moore asks the clerk, “Do you think it’s a little dangerous handing out guns at a bank?” To the people Moore interviews, a bank/licensed firearm dealer makes perfect sense.
The most disturbing part of the film is just how funny it is. Moore doesn’t have to make fun of these people, because they do it to themselves. When Michigan militia members justify the loaded M-16s in their bedroom, it’s about as funny as a heart attack.
Fellow Michigan native and NRA president Charlton Heston might not agree. Just 10 days after the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, Heston held an NRA rally to remind the bereaved citizens of Littleton that gun ownership was not to blame. The insensitivity of the NRA notwithstanding, Moore emphasizes that the film isn’t about gun control. The Columbine shootings are the focal point for a deeper look into the underlying violence in American culture and the myths surrounding it.
Video games and rockers like Marilyn Manson received the brunt of the blame for the Columbine shootings. Moore interviewed Manson in a scene strangely reminiscent of Alice Cooper’s “Milwaukee” speech in “Wayne’s World,” and he becomes the character who articulates the film’s thesis best.
“Bowling for Columbine” is a film everyone should see. The film is only showing at the Riviera, but it’s worth your time to find the theater. It’s a film so inspiring it will make you want to move to Canada.