Michael Moore's 2002 Film Bowling for Columbine conforms to and extends the category of documentary film. While many would claim that the film breaks the rules of the genre, even to the point where it should not be considered a documentary, I intend to demonstrate that it is in fact a documentary, and merely successfully extends the category, and even conforms to a genre that, by definition, is not entirely and exactly representative of reality, but rather "'fragments of reality" which are carefully assembled and edited according to established narrative principles' (Izod and Kilborn.

Film Art: An Introduction. 2001) making it essentially a fictional construct. The post modern text must represent reality, but not in the same way that the News must. The main purpose of a documentary like Bowling for Columbine is to inform, be 'aesthetically satisfying' and have a 'clearly defined social purpose. ' (Nichols (1991), Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary).

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In today's post-modern world a true representation of reality is thought to be impossible since reality is subjective. This means that one particular individual may view Moore's Bowling for Columbine and interpret it as a satirical commentary on American society, a documentary that is not meant to be representative of reality but which is simply an individual view or commentary on society.

Others will see the documentary as fragments of information being presented to a particular audience who can interpret what they will from it, and yet others will view the film and obsess over details which do not comply with there view of reality, such as the fact that he purchased bullets from Kmart without an ID, and let this effect their view of the documentary and distract them from whether they agree with the motives of the documentary or not. John Grierson is generally viewed as the founding father of British documentary and he in fact coined the term in 1926 (Izod and Kilborn.

Film Art: An Introduction. 2001). In Grierson's very definition of the term he states that a documentary must be a '"creative treatment of actuality", being aesthetically satisfying while also having a clearly defined social purpose' (Izod and Kilborn. Film Art: An Introduction. 2001, pg. 427), this describes Bowling for Columbine to the letter. Moore's film is a 'creative treatment of actuality'; it presents fragments of reality in a dramatic and creative manner.

The film is aesthetically satisfying; it presents easily viewed, high quality film footage and even a cartoon to further elaborate the point. The film does have a clearly defined social purpose; for one thing to make Americans aware of the role that fire arms play in their society. Some might argue that the film is more of an essay than a documentary, to say that Moore wrote a 'Bowling for Columbine' essay and then illustrated it with film footage, working from a shot list the way traditional filmmakers do.

This argument, while apparently making the point that the film is not a documentary, appears to actually support the argument that the film is a documentary, '... so many (documentaries) are structured in much the same way as fictional works to which they are said to be diametrically opposed. ' (Izod and Kilborn. Film Art: An Introduction. 2001, pg. 427). Bowling for Columbine, like most documentaries, has a narrator throughout the film handing out various, often nondiegetic, bits of information to the audience.

This means that documentaries are authored pieces in the same way that any feature film is (Izod and Kilborn. Film Art: An Introduction. 2001, pg. 427). Michael Moore's film does tend to make use of various film techniques to further illustrate his arguments, or some would say, misrepresent reality; one in particular is the compression of temporality (or time). A largely publicised section from the very beginning of the film shows Michael Moore walking into a bank, opening an account and, what seems like moments later, walks out with a gun.

In actual fact the background checks that would have needed to be carried out by the bank to ensure the person receiving the weapon was fit to operate it, would have taken days or weeks to be satisfactorily completed. However this does not take from the fact that guns are readily available, celebrated, and advertised in such an obvious target as a bank in that part of America. The compression of time merely accentuates the filmmakers' point and adds to the aesthetic and creative appeal of the documentary by gaining the attention of the audience from the beginning of the film.

Moore, at one stage in the film, shows footage of Charlton Heston making a speech in Denver after the shootings there. The footage is cut with later footage of Charlton Heston in North Carolina almost one year after the shootings. In this later footage we see Charlton Heston saying that the government could not take his gun 'from my cold dead hands', while holding his gun proudly above his head. The later footage was cut into the film to make it look as though it was the same speech from Denver, where such a remark would have been more than inappropriate at a time when so many children were killed in school by guns.

Such methods of editing are required by documentary film makers to achieve a desired effect on the viewer. In his book Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary, Nichols wrote "to produce the desired impact on an audience always requires a good deal of artifice (Nichols (1991), Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary). In many ways methods like editing have the ability of making things more realistic than reality.

Perhaps nowhere in the real world would Charlton Heston show such disrespectful praise to guns, but maybe in his interview with him, Michael Moore saw a part of him that could not be captured on film, a part that he could only communicate to his audience through his knowledge of documentary film techniques. Brecht wrote that to capture what is going on beneath the surface of empirically observable reality is far more challenging than accurately to record the surface itself (Brecht (1938), 'Against Georg Lukacs, in Bloch et al. (1980)).

One web site wrote "Bowling asserts that the U. S. gave $245 million in aid to the Taliban in 2000 and 2001, and then shows aircraft hitting the twin towers to illustrate the result; The aid was humanitarian assistance, given through UN and nongovernmental organizations, to relieve famine in Afghanistan. " (http://home. sprynet. com/~owl1/bowling. htm). The absolute truth of either the statement from the documentary or the contrary statement from the website is uncertain, and in fact, is probably not known by anybody but the president of the United States.

Moore does seem to be trying to 'tweak the heart strings' throughout the documentary and this seems to be within the definition of a documentary. However, if the claim made by the sprynet website is true and the film makers were aware of it at the time, it does seem to be somewhat Nineteen Eighty Four-esque; People in power manipulating facts about the past and passing them off as reality, as if to say 'whatever Big Brother says, is reality'. According to the 'Wall Street Journal' online '... CNN's Lou Dobbs asked Mr.

Moore about his inaccuracies, he shrugged off the question. "You know, look, this is a book of political humor. So, I mean, I don't respond to that sort of stuff, you know," he said. "Glaring inaccuracies? " Mr. Dobbs said. "No, I don't. Why should I? How can there be inaccuracy in comedy? "'. (http://www. opinionjournal. com/forms/printThis. html? id=110003233). This view tends to seem arguably irresponsible of the film maker on the surface, but when more closely analysed it is completely justified.

Moore's authorship is somewhat satirical, and must be taken with a 'pinch of salt'. His Documentaries' purpose is to make a point not to represent reality perfectly, and hopefully they will entertain us along the way. They are post-modern pieces and recognise that there is no absolute reality, that reality is subjective and it would be impossible to represent everybody's view of the world, so better to make their own point and hopefully be aesthetically pleasing along the way.

Kracauer wrote that the main aim of a documentary is to instruct or inform (Kracauer, 1960 Theory of Film) and Bowling for Columbine at its worst achieves this, and at its best manages to entertain also. Whether these 'misrepresentations' of reality where performed on purpose or not by the documentarists seems increasingly irrelevant as we understand more about the purpose of a documentary.

Also featured in the film was a cartoon by the animators of South Park featuring early English settlers in America killing every African-American slave in sight, and yet nobody seems to be complaining that this was not reality, or that it was staged; most people understand that its purpose is to convey information to be interpreted by an individual viewer as they will, and every other section in the documentary appears to be doing the same thing with the same purpose. Why then does not the cartoon get as much attention?

Perhaps because it is obvious that the animation is not reality since we all have our own ideas of reality which do not conform with this presentation unless we are insane or on drugs. Is that to say then that if the other 'misrepresentations' in the documentary were made more obvious, then they would somehow become less misrepresentative? Unfortunately I believe the answer is yes, people would perceive them as less misrepresentative if they were made more obvious, though it should not be the case.

Does then the film maker have a responsibility to make these 'misrepresentations' of reality more obvious so that the viewers can take them less literally and more from a metonymic or metaphoric point of view? Surely if the film maker did have this responsibility then the point would be lost, if not it would become much more subtle, and thus the film would become less entertaining, less aesthetically satisfying, have a less clearly defined social purpose, and therefore be less of a documentary.

In any case a documentary can never be wholly impartial. Without exception documentaries present the film makers view, if they were in print form they would be more like an editorial than a news report, giving the editor or, in this case, filmmakers' view on what they are displaying, '... documentaries can never be wholly objective; they will always involve a greater or lesser degree of intervention on the part of the documentarist. (Izod and Kilborn. Film Art: An Introduction. 2001, pg. 428. ). Surely this is an acceptable aspect of film documentaries, if it were any other way the genre would not last. There would be no demand for documentaries if they only boringly presented absolute impartial facts, I don't think such a thing is possible in any case. Absolute impartiality is a blank book; at least it is as rare and boring as one.

Michael Moore's 2002 Film Bowling for Columbine conforms to and extends the category of documentary film as I have shown in this essay. The film does not break the rules of the genre of documentary, it merely successfully extends the category, and even conforms to a genre that, by definition, is not entirely and exactly representative of reality, but rather "'fragments of reality" which are carefully assembled and edited according to established narrative principles' (Izod and Kilborn.

Film Art: An Introduction. 2001) making it essentially a fictional construct. The post modern text must represent reality, but not in the same way that the News must. The main purpose of a documentary like Bowling for Columbine is to inform, be 'aesthetically satisfying' and have a 'clearly defined social purpose. ' (Nichols (1991), Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary).