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Bowling for Columbine

Are we a nation of gun nuts or are we just nuts? 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

This film's title comes from the Columbine High School massacre in which a group of pupils pursued their fellow students through the school buildings, shooting them indiscriminately. Earlier that day they had turned up as usual to the school bowling session, apparently unwilling to miss this before killing themselves and many of their peers.

This forms the focus of Michael Moore's documentary exploring what he sees as a uniquely American obsession with gun ownership, and its consequences. The film follows Moore as he travels the US asking and forming opinions (from Charlton Heston and Marilyn Manson amongst others), and visiting the sites of numerous shootings.

But this is no dry documentary. In a scene that is an incredible as it is hilarious, Moore goes to a bank to open an account - so that he can claim the free firearm given to new customers as a joining incentive. The guns are issued in the bank by the bank from a rack on the wall. It's a fully licensed gun shop.

Sometimes you may feel Moore goes too far, as characterised in his pursuit of Charlton Heston. A tragic figure since his affliction with Alzheimer's disease, he has long been heavily involved with the pro-gun National Rifle association. As such, Moore sees him as a fair target to take the blame for all the shootings, a viewpoint that seems to have more foundation in some kind of personal distaste than in the facts. Generally though, Moore seems to recognise the old adage that it is people - not guns - that kill people; he notes a similar level of gun ownership but much lower murder rate in neighbouring Canada.

This is no balanced debate but a satirical attack on modern America, more Brass Eye than Panorama, and just as controversial. You'll laugh, to the point of physical pain, but this is no comedy. Moore's great triumph is that through his humour he makes you hear and he makes you see; sooner or later he even forces you to think. And after that you'll realise it's really not very funny at all.

Stuart Jarvis

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Spring Term (35mm)
2003/2004 Autumn Term (35mm)