The major factor in deciding if a documentary successfully reaches its purpose should depend on the goal of that particular documentary. For example, one of the greatest documentaries ever made, Hoop Dreams, went through the lives of
two young basketball players over the span of about five years. This was a
dramatic documentary that told the story like a film. It got the viewing
audience inside the lives and dreams of the two main characters -- which was
the success of the film. The message was simple -- follow your dreams. Not a
political stance, however, an equally strong and important one.
Now, a documentary that wants to preach a political statement to the
audience has a more difficult job than a documentary that is merely telling
a story. For one, it has to keep the audience interested in the issue. It
also has to get people to think, "Wow! I never really thought about it that
way!" Most people are stubborn in their assessment of certain things.
With Bowling for Columbine, the documentary film reaches another angle and
makes a principal point in a very much-argued topic -- gun control. Director
Michael Moore brilliantly faces the serious issue in an exceptional array of
emotion -- from anger to sadness to down-and-out humor. Moore is usually
most familiar for his documentary film, Roger and Me, where he attempts
to get an interview with General Motors CEO Roger Smith after a plant in his
home state was closed down and put over 30,000 people out of jobs. Moore is
strong and blunt, and he seems to be fearless at times. With a microphone in hand and a cameraman who seems to be his shadow, Moore takes gun control to a whole new level and questions the safety of America as we find ourselves at
a time in our society where gun murders top any other country in the world.
According to the film, over 11,000 people died at the hands of someone with a
gun last year.
Bowling for Columbine opens with a scene where Michael Moore is trying to
open an account with a bank. The reason he is trying to open this account
is because this specific bank is giving out free guns with every new account
opened! Moore sarcastically goes in and questions the reasoning of this
irresponsible connection of guns and banks. The sarcastic ways continue
throughout the film as honest and hard-hitting as it possibly can be.
So what about the title, Bowling for Columbine? Well, the story behind this is one of the most intriguing parts of the film. When looking back at the horrific murders in Littleton, Colorado at Columbine High School, people still wonder what was going through the heads of the Dylan and Eric, the disturbed individuals who committed the crimes. Through the film, we get many theories of their downfall, including heavy metal music and video game violence. But official sources have proven that only hours before the mass murders were committed, the two young boys were at a local bowling alley, rolling away. So why hasn't bowling been added to the list of reasons for these two kids to have gone "over-the-edge?"
Moore's interviews span across the board -- including Marilyn Manson and a
semi-interview with Dick Clark before he has his assistant slam his van door
on Moore's face. All interviews are interesting, factual and thought-provoking. The film builds up to the final interview of the film with actor and president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Charlton Heston.
An amazing collage of history, file footage, interviews, and animation, Bowling for Columbine has you fixed to the screen. At one point tears will fall. At another, you’ll be rolling in the aisles in laughter. Who says documentaries have to be boring?