After Columbine, I just kind of had it. It seemed like back then there was like a school shooting a week, and I just thought: Oh, gees! I've got to do something with this!
Thus bombastic, talkative 48-year old Michael Moore started his investigation into America's dangerous obsession with guns.
Moore, who reveals in the feature-length documentary that he is a card-carrying member of the NRA, recalls starting off "with a sort of typical liberal view point, in that if only we had less guns and more gun control laws, we'd have
Change of view
That changed once he started making the film he began to see things differently. "It became clear to me that that wasn't the answer and especially once coming to Canada, you know, and going to the office of Canadian statistics where they've got seven million registered guns in this country.
Ten million households, right, seven million guns. I thought that's a hell of a lot of guns to have lying around. Even though the majority of them are shotguns and rifles, you know, they don't have oozies here, no hand gun in the night table, you know. But, if you want to get a gun in Canada you can. You got to go through a lot of hoops, you can't be a wife-beater or anything like that, but you know, if you wait a month you can get a gun."
But the Canadians don't have the monopoly over the ease of gun ownership. The opening sequence of Moore's startling film has him being able to get a gun by merely opening a bank account in one town. Hilarious and absurd on the one hand, disturbing on the other. "I was so nervous about that very issue, that I did not say the city it was in because I was just afraid," Moore chuckles.
"When the teller says that there were 500 guns in the vault, this is not something that I should be advertising exactly where this is."
Of course Moore's vision, as often startling as it is, is by no means parochially American or Canada. Sold internationally at record levels, clearly Bowling for Columbine is designed to take an American tragedy and broaden its ramifications internationally.
The reason is simple, he says. "People from other countries are afraid that you may be becoming more like us," says Moore with a quieter tone.
"Americans in Cannes, when the film sold so well internationally, had the attitude that, "It's because you guys hate Americans," "You love to laugh at Americans," "Goofy Americans," or whatever. But, the truth was - because I saw it with the international audiences in Cannes - the feeling coming out of there was, 'Whatever we do we have to stop going down this road.'"
What's the solution?
Moore is unapologetic about his Leftist stance, but with school shootings on the rise and recent sniper attacks bombarding the airwaves, he believes that most Americans, at any rate are on his side. He may be right, and what he wants, is for this so-called Christian country to live up to its Judaic-Christian doctrine. No kidding.
"Americans need to be a little more Christian. What would Jesus do? Would Jesus beat up on the poor? No really, I wonder how we come off calling ourselves Christians or a Christian country when the whole message of this guy was blessed are the poor. That was the first thing out of his mouth on that mountain, right?"
But to Moore, the problems that lead to excessive gun ownership go beyond a lack of Christian values. "We are in an economic system that is set up to benefit the few at the expense of the many which is wrong. Now I don't know what the solution is to it. I'm not saying that Communism or Socialism or whatever are the answers; I've never read anything by Marx, I am not that educated even though I know I look like a smart guy," quips Moore.
The 48-year-old filmmaker from Flint, Michigan, is best known for his confrontational style, which resulted in acclaimed films such as Roger & Me and television shows such as The Awful Truth. He also wrote the hit book Stupid White Men. Bowling For Columbine, which was a smash sensation at the Cannes Film Festival in May, has the potential to be his most popular film ever, and argues "that it's the kind of movie I like to see. It's funny, poignant and interesting, your perfect Saturday night out," says Moore.
I set out first of all to make a film that I would want to go see on a Friday night so my first audience is me, and I trust that there is at least a million or two million people like me, you know, 270 million that like to see the same movie. I don't set out to try and please some audience or demographic."
Here's the good news
While Moore's vision in this film is often tough-minded and deals with some thorny issues, he says that after seeing his film, it should be evident that at heart, he remains an optimist.
"Things get better. Slavery ends, Hitler dies. Things get better and the bad guys usually do lose in the end. That is the truth. And in the end, things do improve and, so you have a lot of the humour in these films, because the humour is there as a part of release of the pressure," says Moore striking a more upbeat note.
"If you leave the theatre depressed, you are paralysed by the despair. I don't want you to go have a beer and go, 'Let's just forget about that' and 'So the world sucks.' I want you to leave the theater angry, and feeling like you'd better do something. I am kind of pushing your citizen button, to activate it to say, 'This is a democracy! This is not a spectator sport! And this is a participatory event!' If the people don't participate, it