“Bowling for Columbine“ is a 2002 documentary film written, produced, directed, and narrated by Michael Moore.
In the film, Moore deals with the 1999 Columbine High School massacre as a main subject. He also covers the 2000 Killing of Kayla Rolland.
The theme is serious, but it also includes humorous satire and an animation part.
It is a collaboration between the United States, Canada, and Germany. 120 minutes.
About the Columbine High School massacre (1999)
The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting and attempted bombing that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, the United States.
Two twelfth-grade students of the school, Eric Harris (at age 18) and Dylan Klebold (at age 17) shot and killed twelve students and one teacher in their school. Ten of the twelve students killed were in the school library, where Harris and Klebold subsequently committed suicide.
The guns that they used were all legally purchased at stores and gun shows, and many of the bullets were bought at superstore Kmart just down the street.
About the Killing of Kayla Rolland (2000)
On February 29, 2000, at Buell Elementary School in Mount Morris Township, Michigan, a six-year-old girl named Kayla Rolland was shot dead by a six-year-old male classmate.
The boy’s mother had worked under Michigan’s welfare-to-work program. The boy and his eight-year-old brother had lived at his uncle’s house. The boy had found the gun at his uncle’s house.
The film is mainly composed of Moore’s documentary part and quotations of archival footage. In the documentary part, Moore tried to directly interview several key persons without an appointment.
The title “Bowling for Columbine“ was based on the story that Harris and Klebold, who were the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre, attended a school bowling class at 6:00 AM on the day they committed the attacks at school. However, later this story turned out to be false. Glenn Moore of the Golden Police Department concluded that they were absent from school on the day the attack took place.
“Bowling for Columbine“ is an interesting film that tries to find out the underlying factor causing many
murders with the use of guns in the U.S.
In the film, Moore tries to solve the question of why the rate of homicidal shootings in the United States is higher than those of other nations, interviewing various people including the people involved in the cases, the general public of each nation, animation “South Park“ (since 1997) co-creator Matt Stone (who was raised in Littleton, Colorado, near Columbine), actor and the National Rifle Association’s then-president Charlton Heston, and musician Marilyn Manson (he was criticized by the media for influencing the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre).
It is clear that one of the factors of the high incidence of gun crimes in the U.S. is the situation where guns and ammunition are easily accessible and within reach of young people and children.
In the film, Moore as a political activist lobbies Kmart to improve this situation.
He takes two Columbine survivors, Mark Taylor and Richard Castaldo to the Troy, Michigan headquarters of Kmart, and they ask Kmart to stop selling bullets for handguns.
The next day, they revisit the headquarters of Kmart with journalists of the local media. The company’s vice president of communications announces that the company will phase out handgun ammunition sales within 90 days.
The theme of the film is not limited to the issue of gun control. Through the comparison between the U.S. and Canada, Moore also considers the “culture of fear“ (a concept popularized by American sociologist Barry Glassner) as a background of the high incidence of gun crimes in the U.S.
According to Moore, the U.S. government and the media lead Americans to arm themselves by inciting fear, and it contributes to the epidemic of gun violence. Behind this process of reproduction of fear, there are gun-making companies for the pursuit of profit.
The culture of fear in the U.S. is based on white people’s fear of black people in the historical context of slavery and discrimination against blacks.
From this perspective, Moore caricatures the history of violence and fear in the U.S. from the massacres against Native Americans to present as a short animation entitled “A Brief History of the United States of America” within the film.
The film “Bowling for Columbine“ received its first public screening in rough cut form at the 2002 Ann Arbor Film Festival (Michigan), and it was officially premiered at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
The film won numerous awards, including 55th Anniversary Prize of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, Best Foreign Film of the 2003 César Awards (France), and Best Documentary Feature of the 2003 Academy Award.
It was released on VHS and DVD by MGM Home Entertainment in 2003.
The digital restoration of the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection in 2018.