Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Animation
Featurette-Prison Release - Abu Ghraib
Featurette-Bush Rose Garden
Featurette-Lila - DC
|Year Of Production||2004|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Michael Moore|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.75:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The temperature where freedom burns.
With a name borrowed from the Ray Bradbury book Fahrenheit 451 (apparently the author was none-too-pleased about it either), the title of this latest offering from rabble-raising filmmaker Michael Moore is certainly designed to be inflammatory, and it is. But as we move into 2005 it also begins to sadly look a little dated.
Moore's last documentary was 2002's Bowling for Columbine which won the Academy Award for best documentary, even though many claimed it was hardly a film fitting neatly into that category. It was not fair and balanced, it bent several facts and figures to achieve certain outcomes, and through convenient editing made things appear on screen in a different manner to how they occurred in real life. Contrary to all those arguments though, Moore raised the level of debate in America about guns and if that was the only positive outcome, well it worked. He also won a swag of awards, including the big one at the Oscars.
When he accepted the gong for best doco, Moore famously used his 30 second speech to criticise the war in Iraq and the falsehood that he thought was George W. Bush's presidency. It was pretty clear at the time that the raging diatribe delivered by Moore was the first hint of promotion for his next film.
And here it is - Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary that purports to investigate the aftermath of the terror attacks on the US in September 2001, the decision by the Bush administration to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and the murky oil dealings with the Saudis and Bin Laden family.
Unlike Columbine, which tried hard to be a balanced documentary, with this film, Moore has moved away from even trying to disguise Fahrenheit 9/11 as a documentary. It is biased, it is inflammatory, it is wayward with the facts and figures, and it again tries a few cheap stunts to gain a laugh. What it really is is a two hour political advertisement from one proud American with an axe to grind. Moore wants everyone to know why America should not re-elect president George W. Bush in the 2004 polls. Unfortunately, since it is now February 2005 and Bush has won the election convincingly, been inaugurated, and even delivered this year's State Of The Union address promising to continue his aggressive foreign policy on countries that harbour terrorists, one could say the film was a miserable failure. Watching it in this post election period it does appear incredibly dated at times. Knowing the man who manages to murder the English language like no other public figure in history and talk for five minutes using the same sentence rearranged ten different ways was easily re-elected makes a film intent on his election defeat seem somewhat anachronistic.
What it does do well is raise the level of awareness about some things the mainstream media in America (and other western countries, like ours) choose to ignore. Just why does the US choose to ignore the human rights abuses in friendly Saudi Arabia where public beheadings take place (there is disturbing footage of one included here - it is not nice). Just how did the US manage to contrive a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda when almost all of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis? Why is the American media so biased in support of the war? How did Bush and his dad's cronies manage to win the 2000 election despite the fact that Democrat Al Gore got more votes? And just how close are the Bush and Bin Laden families?
These questions and plenty of others are raised and even if the links and arguments presented by Moore are a little tenuous and contrived, there are things here that should be discussed in an open and democratic society. It is for these reasons - the opening of public debate and giving the small man in the street a voice - that Fahrenheit 9/11 win the Golden Palm at Cannes for best film. It is a reminder of just how powerful a simple series of interconnected video images, a little well-placed audio and some narration can be.
The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.
This is not a bad video effort, but do not expect too much in terms of vibrancy and colour. The film contains vision sourced from many different places, with Moore's usual digital camera, news footage, lower grade camcorder footage taken in the thick of battle, and even the odd hidden camera shot. There is grain evident on many of the shots with poor lighting, but overall it is more than watchable.
Colours aren't exactly what I'd call vibrant, but the style of film and the content matter presented doesn't really call for heaps of bright colour.
There are no compression problems and no film-to-video artefacts. Film artefacts are also mostly absent in the new material, but often dominate the older footage.
There are no subtitles. Compared to the Region 1 disc this is a major negative.
Disc one is a dual layered disc that is RSDL formatted with the layer change occurring at 67:48.
The film comes well equipped with a very nice Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Unlike the Region 1 disc, it is joined by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
This is a surprisingly punchy soundtrack, with heaps of low end when needed offering a solid and enjoyable aural experience. While it is true that narration and dialogue dominates, when required the audio punches well above its weight. All of the dialogue is clear and there are no audio sync problems.
There is plenty of surround activity throughout and some really hefty use of bass during the opening fireworks scene and the many explosions that occur when the footage switches to Iraq.
|Surround Channel Use|
The Region 4 disc's menus rate as fairly ordinary compared to the Region 1 release. Ours is simply a static screen while the Region 1 features the clip of George W. Bush in the classroom on the morning of 9/11.
This featurette does not really have a name - it is simply labelled as Featurette. It is a 11:20 look at the premiere, the reaction, some of the controversy and highlights of the film's win at Cannes. Pretty lightweight and all-too-brief and congratulatory towards Michael Moore to be considered a real making of.
An 8:20 montage of vision from Iraq taken in the days before the invasion of coalition forces in March 2003. The whole point of this is to show that before the war, the average citizen of Iraq wanted nothing more than to live in peace and the kids there are just like any other kids in the world. It really is a simple and thought-provoking eight minutes of footage that will have you reassessing the stereotypes and generalisations of Middle Eastern people that are so common in the mainstream media.
The very name Abu Ghraib should be enough to make most supporters of the war cringe with embarrassment after the release of the now infamous pictures of prisoner torture and abuse at the hands of the American soldiers. This 6:58 look at the prison from the outside on the day some prisoners were being released simply reinforces the opinion the American military has about the Iraqi population. Disturbing to say the least.
Urban Hammid (spelt Hamid on the Region 1 disc), is a Swedish journalist who was embedded with the US military during the invasion in 2003. This is a 18:01 featurette following him as he accompanies some American forces as they go about searching Iraqi homes for insurgents. This is about as real as reality TV gets and shows just what the poor Iraqi civilians had to endure.
George W. Bush's speechwriters must cringe every time Dubbya opens his mouth without the aid of one of their scripts. Check out this amusing 5:24 press conference that Bush holds in the Rose Garden of the Whitehouse just after he has given evidence before the 9/11 Commission. Dubbya can talk for five minutes and not actually say anything - it is amazing.
At least the Bush Administration's new Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice can string two sentences together in a coherent manner, unlike her boss. Here she is in her previous role as National Security Advisor and fronting the 9/11 Commission. In 8:04 minutes she manages to duck and dodge several tricky questions with all the poise of a seasoned politician. If you happened upon an CIA report titled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States" in early August 2001, would alarm bells start ringing? Well apparently not according to Condi.
Lila Lipscomb lost her son in combat in Iraq. She appears in the film and here she is presented to the audience after the world premiere. For 4:30 she talks about her loss and what she hopes for the future.
Abdul Henderson enlisted in the Marine reserves and saw active duty in Iraq in 2003. He is featured in the film discussing his opposition to the war and why he believed the invasion was immoral and incorrect. This 7:28 deleted scene simply contains more interview material with him.
Interestingly this is labelled Arab-American comedians on the Region 1 disc which is the more correct description. After 9/11 anyone with an Arab sounding name was looked upon with suspicion. Imagine being an American citizen with a name like Ahmed Ahmed. Well, in a series of stand-up routines, comedian Ahmed Ahmed and other similarly named Arab-American comedians get some great mileage and laughs out of their ancestry. Very funny. Runs for 10:33.
In what looks like another deleted scene, this one features the US government's answer to keeping the harbours of Miami clear of terrorists. Rather than pay real armed forces to keep things safe, the government has recruited a bunch of retired folk to patrol around in small boats. They take the job very seriously as you will see here. Runs for 2:56.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There are a couple of differences between the Region 1 (the Canadian version is what I used for comparison) and Region 4 discs. First up is that the Region 4 release comes as a two-disc set, while the Region 1 version has just one disc in the case. The menu system on the Region 1 is far funkier and much slicker, with the scene of Bush in the schoolroom on the morning of September 11 playing repeatedly. Both discs offer animated scene selection. The other main differences are:
The Region 4 disc misses out on:
The Region 1 disc misses out on:
Not a whole lot of difference, but the inclusion of subtitles and being able to watch the exact same content without having to switch discs sees me award the Region 1 version a narrow victory.
Fahrenheit 9/11 was one of the most controversial films released in 2004. It is not a documentary in the true sense, as Michael Moore presents a one-sided and biased polemic. It might not be a documentary, but it is entertaining and if it sparks even the slightest debate about what the US (and the other countries like Australia) are doing in Iraq then it has performed one of its jobs. It didn't help stop the re-election of George W. Bush and since it failed in that goal it now appears somewhat dated. I suggest seeing it before the US invades another country and the film becomes a complete relic.
The video quality is acceptable for a film that uses many different quality source elements. There are no issues with the authoring of the disc.
The audio is remarkably good. From the fireworks at the opening to the sounds of battle in Iraq, it is delivered with flair, punch, and quality.
The extras are numerous though a little lightweight to be deserving of a disc of their own.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|