Fahrenheit 9/11: Crying, Laughing, Shouting at the Screen

Moore's Bush polemic hits raw nerve in New York

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 opened in select theaters on June 23rd. If the drawn faces of audience members leaving some of the first screenings in New York City are any indication, this film fucks you up. (Hey Fahrenheit marketing people, put that blurb on your poster!) Those people willing to speak—many were dumbstruck and declined to talk, walking off in dazed silence—responded with intense emotion.

"I cried," said Tom Allsup. "And I cried again."

"People laughed, but were polite," says Sheila Schwid.

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  • "We talked back to the screen," says Casey Krugman.

    Or, as one attendee joked, "I laughed, I cried, I wanted the Bush family dead!"

    Pundits and critics have had their chance to weigh in, but for the most part those professional culture watchers know whether they're sitting on the left or the right side of the theater before they enter. It's audiences that will ultimately decide whether Moore has succeeded with his latest film. We talked with people as they exited Fahrenheit 9/11 to take their pulses and check their temperatures.


    Name: Alan Page
    Age: 25
    Political Affiliation: Democrat
    Registered Voter: Yes

    Did you learn anything new from the film? Yeah. It's not so much new facts, but the details. I did not know the extent of the Saudi connection.

    Did the film change your mind?: No. It intensified it.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: If it's made up, he'll get sued. If it's not made up, I don't know how this can be in the public without consequences. I have a feeling it won't. How do you think people will respond to the film? I get worried that this will be a Michael Moore issue.

    Critical Assessment: "Sweet Jesus!"


    Name: Patricia Arriaga
    Age: 51
    Political Affiliation: Other
    Registered Voter: No (Mexican citizen)

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: Not that I didn't know of already. [Moore] pinpointed all the business relationships we all knew but he gave the precise names.

    Did the film change your mind?: Nope. As a foreigner, this is the view we have of the war outside the U.S. We see what they're telling you, so this film is very important for the U.S.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: It's a very personal film. For example, he was making fun of the alliance; he shouldn't have done that. You don't have to make fun of these countries. Moore lacks seriousness.

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: It will change their minds. This war is very phony.

    Critical Assessment: "It touched my heart. We forget about the American soldiers."


    Name: Tom Allsup
    Age: 40
    Political Affiliation: Independent
    Registered Voter: Yes

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: Yes, I did. How complicit the media is in this. The footage we should have seen a long time ago. The Bush family couldn't succeed without any complicity of the corporations.

    Did the film change your mind?: No, it didn't.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: Making a documentary, you choose things, you manipulate, you discard. But I believe there's more truth in this than in the media over the last three years.

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: Enraged. And I hope they demand change.

    Critical Assessment: "I cried. And I cried again."


    Name: Kenneth Breger
    Age: 51
    Political Affiliation: Democrat
    Registered Voter: Yes

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: Yes, there were a number of things. I followed the events very closely, so much was familiar to me.

    Did the film change your mind?: It reinforced my views.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: I have no reason to believe that. I've been a sort of interested citizen/critical researcher and I didn't see any falsehoods.

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: Strongly. If you're favorably disposed to Bush, you'll dislike it intensely. If you're not, it's reinforcing, empowering, inspiring.

    Critical Assessment: "See it and get everyone you know to see it."


    Name: Lena Cohen
    Age: 22
    Political Affiliation: Democrat
    Registered Voter: No (not a citizen)

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: No. Basically, I don't think Moore's honest or straight, but he's brilliant.

    Did the film change your mind?: Yes. I thought that Michael Moore was the biggest ass on earth and I wanted to attack him, but he is a genius. He knows the power of image and cinema. Even though I hate Bush, I thought doing this on Bush is easy. Everybody could do it. I was ready to kill the guy [Moore], but I must say, it's a good movie.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: Not made up. Definitely manipulated.

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: I saw 200 people come out of the theater shocked. People couldn't talk. He's using shocking images. A lot of Americans' minds will be changed. Moore is dangerous.

    Critical Assessment: "Everybody laughed. I've been crying for hours."


    Name: Shazia Ahmad
    Age: 32
    Political Affiliation: Independent
    Registered Voter: Yes

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: I got to see the actual physical cost of the war. Footage of soldiers dying in Iraq, legs being amputated, soldiers kicking in doors of regular Iraqi homes. You never see that.

    Did the film change your mind?: No. Not one bit. It totally reinforced me and made me more angry. I want people who believe the Bush line to go see it.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: I'm going to do some research myself, but I would hope he's a responsible enough journalist.

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: People who are against the war are going to be inspired to be more active. I'm hoping it will get people to think about the idea of what a terrorist is, what a Muslim is, and what a culture war is all about.

    Critical Assessment: "I needed to pee, but I just couldn't go."


    Name: Sheila Schwid
    Age: 71
    Political Affiliation: Democrat
    Registered Voter: Yes

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: Yes. The film shows the Carlyle Group has no integrity and is making money on both sides [of the war]. Today, the Carlyle Group bought Loews, so if you don't see [the film] today, you may not see it.

    Did the film change your mind?: No. I was [already] convinced Bush has no integrity. I felt for the first time how horrible it is for the people who died or are wounded. Americans are victims. These are our people who are dying.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: No. Moore has everything checked by lawyers. He knows he could have everything taken from him [if he lies].

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: People who haven't read anything will be amazed.

    Critical Assessment: "Michael Moore is a master filmmaker. One of the best films ever made."


    Name: Casey Krugman
    Age: 22
    Political Affiliation: Democrat
    Registered Voter: No ("But I'm going to be!")

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: A lot of new things like how fucking corrupt this government is right now.

    Did the film change your mind?: No, it reinforced it.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: As a film student, I know that there are certain creative aspects, but the facts are not debatable.

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: Hopefully by calling for everybody in the Bush cabinet's arrest and resignation—in that order.

    Critical Assessment: "Everyone should be forced to see this before registering to vote."


    Name: Tim Grimes
    Age: 33
    Political Affiliation: Democrat
    Registered Voter: Yes

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: Yes. I think I was aware of most of what was presented, but I got it in more detail. I was in the first Gulf war and [the film] was upsetting. Seeing how the military is full of kids from small towns and a lot of ignorance on the part of these kids sent over there. I'm kind of dumbfounded.

    Did the film change your mind?: No, it reinforced [it]. It made me feel like I had to spring into action.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: No, it didn't seem made up. There was a lot of Michael Moore putting his thoughts into Bush's head, but that was for entertainment purposes. I don't feel manipulated; I feel informed.

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: I hope the right people see it. I think people should be forced to watch this movie.

    Critical Assessment: "Dammit!"


    Name: Rory Broadfoot
    Age: 22
    Political Affiliation: Democrat
    Registered Voter: No (not a citizen)

    Did you learn anything new from the film?: I didn't realize the extent you [Americans] got screwed.

    Did the film change your mind?: I'm a Michael Moore fan. I'm already anti-Bush, but now people who would've voted [for him] before are against him.

    Did you think any of it was made up?: No. Obviously he's a documentary filmmaker, but I don't believe he lied.

    How do you think people will respond to the film?: It's going to make them angry—and get George Bush out.

    Critical Assessment: "It's a chapter in George Bush's obituary."

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