Bowling for Columbine is a 2002 American documentary film written, produced, directed, and narrated by Michael Moore. The film explores what Moore suggests are the primary causes for the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, and other acts of violence with guns. Moore focuses on the background and environment in which the massacre took place and some common public opinions and assumptions about related issues. The film also looks into the nature of violence in the United States.
A critical and commercial success, the film brought Moore international attention as a rising filmmaker and won numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature, a special 55th Anniversary Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, and the César Award for Best Foreign Film. The film is considered one of the greatest documentary films of all time.
CLIMATE OF FEAR
Moore contrasts his portrayal of the U.S. attitude toward guns and violence with the attitude prevailing in areas of Canada where gun ownership is at similar levels to the U.S. He illustrates his thesis by visiting neighborhoods in Canada near the Canada–U.S. border, where he finds front doors unlocked and much less concern over crime and security. In regards to the film, Farber states “Moore's thesis, which he later elaborated in Fahrenheit 9/11, is that the fear-mongering that permeates American society contributes to our epidemic of gun violence". We are also shown news stories being covered in Canada and how they don’t follow the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality. This adds to Moore's argument that the media is driving America's fear as well as their need for protection. The cartoon "A Brief History of the United States of America" encompasses Moore's view of where the fear in America started and how it's progressed and changed over the years.
In this section, there is a montage of several social pundits stating possible causes for gun violence. Many claim links with violence in television, cinema, and computer games; towards the end of the montage, however, the same people all change their claims to Marilyn Manson's responsibility. Following this is an interview between Moore and Marilyn Manson. Manson shares his views about the United States' climate with Moore, stating that he believes U.S. society is based on "fear and consumption", citing Colgate commercials that promise "if you have bad breath, [people] are not going to talk to you" and other commercials containing fear-based messages. Manson also mentions that the media, under heavy government influence, had asserted that his influence on the acts of Klebold and Harris was far greater than that of President Clinton, who ordered more bombings on Kosovo on April 20, 1999, than any other day during the Balkans campaign. When Moore asks Manson what he would say to the students at Columbine, Manson replies, "I wouldn't say a single word to them; I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one did."
South Park co-creator Matt Stone—who grew up in Littleton—agreed to talk with Moore about his hometown and the shooting in the film. Although he did not feel that Moore mischaracterized him or his statements in the film, he harbored ill feelings about the cartoon "A Brief History of the United States of America". Both Stone and his fellow South Park creator Trey Parker felt that the cartoon was done in a style very similar to theirs. Also, its proximity to Stone's interview may have led some viewers to believe, incorrectly, that they created the cartoon. "It was a good lesson in what Michael Moore does in films. He doesn't necessarily say explicitly this is what it is, but he creates meaning where there is none by cutting things together," Stone remarked in a later interview. As a humorous retort to this, Stone and Parker portrayed Moore as "a gibbering, overweight, hot-dog-eating buffoon" who ultimately commits a suicide bombing against the protagonists in their 2004 film, Team America: World Police.
CHARLTON HESTON INTERVIEW
For the final scene of the film, Moore visits Charlton Heston's home and asks to speak to him via the speakerbox in front of his gated home. Heston declines to speak to him at the time, but agrees to look at his schedule for the next day. Moore returns and first shows his NRA card, which Heston expresses pleasure at. They go inside the large property and sit down to discuss American firearm violence. Heston's response includes the suggestions that the United States has a "history of violence" and more "mixed ethnicity" than other countries. He also states that he doesn't believe that the United States is anymore violent than other countries. Moore then asks Heston if he would like to apologize for leading NRA rallies in Flint, Michigan (Moore's hometown) after the shooting death of a six-year-old girl at Buell Elementary School and in Littleton after the Columbine shooting. Heston claims he didn't know about Kayla's death or how soon the rally was after it. When Moore presses to know if he would have cancelled the rally, he declines to answer and walks out of the interview. Moore implores him not to leave and asks him to look at a picture of Kayla. Heston turns around, but then turns back to continue his exit. Upon his exit, Moore leaves Kayla's picture outside the home. Moore was later criticized by some for his perceived "ambush" of the actor.
Reviews for the film were overwhelmingly positive, with a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and therefore a "certified fresh" award. Another score aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating in the 0–100 range based on reviews from top mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 72 based on 32 reviews, signifying 'generally favorable reviews'. Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune wrote, "It's unnerving, stimulating, likely to provoke anger and sorrow on both political sides—and, above all, it's extremely funny." A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote, "The slippery logic, tendentious grandstanding, and outright demagoguery on display in Bowling for Columbine should be enough to give pause to its most ardent partisans, while its disquieting insights into the culture of violence in America should occasion sober reflection from those who would prefer to stop their ears."