When Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 shook the country in ways that a film had never done previously, it had to go without saying that it was only a matter of time before a rebuttal from the right hit the screens. While the cleverly named Fahrenhype 911 didn't open across the country to sold out crowds like Moore's film did, it has hit home video on this barebones DVD release from Savage Video.
But does it hold up? And is it worth seeing?
The answer is a resounding 'kind of.' Alan Peterson's film raises some very valid points that a lot of people, Moore included, have overlooked in their assessment of the current administration and its policies. The Afghani pipeline that is given considerable screen time in Moore's film is exposed here as something that was considered and was more relevant under the Clinton administration. They also go into some detail about the discrepancies in Moore's film in regards to the out flight of the Saudi nationals that occurred shortly after the attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001.
Much of the film calls into question Moore's patriotism, which should really be a non-issue if this film wants to be taken seriously. It's cover art and back copy claim it's fact based and if that is the case, it should stick to the facts and it doesn't do that at all. It makes assumptions about its subject in exactly the same way that the film it so strongly opposes does, only it doesn't back it up as strongly. Just because Anne Coulter and Ed Koch think that Bush is doing a great job and that there are no issues with his administrations policies doesn't necessarily make it so. Just because the Senator of Georgia, Zell Miller, thinks that the country is a safer place because George W. Bush was in the White House on 9/11 doesn't mean it's true (though whether Gore would have done a better job is truly anyone's guess). The emphasis on this type of material makes this movie more of an opinion piece than anything else.
The most effective and unsettling part of the film isn't the interviews with 'influential private citizens' like Dick Morris and known right wing commentators, politicians, or b-movie actors. It's the footage shot with some of the people whose footage was used in Moore's documentary supposedly without their permission. If this is the case then it's wrong. Using footage without permission is against the law in many cases. However, if Moore acquired it legally (and it's probably safe to assume that he has seeing as to the best of my knowledge he hasn't been sued for anything yet – and with the amount of money both Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 made, let's face it, he's a nice target!) then this is really a moot point. While the people who appeared in Moore's film may not like the way they were portrayed, if Moore didn't break the law and has his signed release forms filed safely away somewhere, I can't really take issue with it.
Speaking of moot points, this film asserts that Moore's way of portraying the way that the election was won by Bush is blatantly wrong. The reasoning? Mainly that he took a newspaper article out of context and rearranged parts of it to suit his agenda. If this is the case, and I'll give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt here, then again, that is a case of misrepresenting the facts, which is something that honest and unslanted documentaries should try to avoid doing. However what this film fails to do (and here again, it misses the point) is to even attempt to explain what happened to all those votes that should have been there but were never counted, most of which belonged to black citizens that were registered Democrats and whose numbers were enough to have given Gore the win in Florida.
The film closes with a thought that, to be quite honest, frightened me. I'm paraphrasing here but essentially it gives us the impression that we shouldn't question the acts of the current administration and we should support it regardless of how we feel, lest we be anything but extremely patriotic. A more accurate closing statement would probably describe this as blind patriotism, which is essentially what this film is promoting. Moore's film at least encouraged people to think about things for themselves, and used some very effective moments of humor and satire to do so. Fahrenhype 911 tries to do the same thing for the opposing side but fails in that regard and comes off as a half-assed rebuttal that really meanders in its effectiveness. It has some interesting moments, but not nearly enough of them and it's fact checking is certainly no more accurate and therefore no better than Moore's.
The non-anamorphic 1.78.1 widescreen transfer doesn't have any real issues worth complaining about. There is some edge enhancement and some shimmering in a couple of scenes but the majority of the time we've got a stable and clean image to work with. As is the norm with documentaries that incorporate such things, the news footage looks a little worse for wear than the newly shot interview footage but even that material, most of which is less than three years old, looks decent enough.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track isn't bad, though there are times where the soft and expressionless narration falls too low in the mix making things a little bit difficult to understand in a couple of scenes. There's really very little in the way of channel separation but the film is a quiet piece to begin with and doesn't really call for much of that. With the exception of the aforementioned scenes where the narration is low this mix is fine. Interviews and news snippets are clear and concise and easy to understand.
While there is scene selection, there are no other extra features at all on this release.
Fahrenhype 911 is just as, if not more, biased than the film it is supposedly exposing. While there are plenty of interesting facts presented, they're done so in such a way that they come off with an obvious slant and many of the major issues that Moore's film raises are skirted around. Recommended if you want to hear the other side of the story, but this one is really for political junkies only.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.