When it came out in 2002, rabble-rousing filmmaker Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine struck an immediate—and deep—chord with critics and audiences. At once entertaining, excoriating, and impossibly tragic, the investigation of the gun-violence epidemic in America went on to win a special prize at Cannes, break box-office records, and take home the Oscar for best documentary. The movie stands today as a landmark of the nonfiction form, employing a variety of filmmaking styles and argumentative modes, from man-on-the-street reportage to scathing historical montages, to examine the causes of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. And it has remained, over the last fifteen years, no less relevant in its outrage, as mass shootings have only become an even more depressingly common feature of American life.
In the clip above, taken from a supplemental piece on our new edition, the film’s chief archivist Carl Deal and Moore discuss the legacy of the documentary they hoped would prompt Americans to reconsider the role firearms play in their culture. Deal talks about how the Columbine 911 calls, so key to the enduring power of the film’s recounting of that day’s tragic events, ended up in their hands, while Moore acknowledges the frustration he has felt that the change he set out to effect hasn’t yet come about—though he hasn’t lost hope that it will.