Nearly two years since the election of Donald Trump, and with the rise in Europe of right-wing extremists openly expressing their admiration for the authoritarian tactics of Russian president Vladimir Putin, there’s understandably a fresh urgency in many of the political documentaries screening at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. Among the filmmakers capturing the moment is Michael Moore, who is no stranger to the subject of electoral crisis.
During the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election of 2004, Michael Moore rolled out Fahrenheit 9/11, which would become the highest grossing documentary of all time—even though it failed to stop the reelection of George W. Bush, as Moore had suggested it might. Now, with Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore is clearly taking aim at this year’s midterm elections. The title is a reference to the predawn hours of November 9, 2016, when Trump became president-elect. In its opening minutes, Fahrenheit 11/9 recaps the complacent confidence with which pundits pooh-poohed the seemingly remote possibility that Trump could win a primary, never mind the nomination, and certainly not the general election.
“This isn’t his smoothest film,” writes David Edelstein at Vulture, “but it’s his fullest and most original. It’s also his most urgent, which is really saying something. It’s one of the most urgent films ever made.” Time Out’s Joshua Rothkopf adds that “what makes Moore’s latest so ferocious—and pound for pound his most effective piece of journalism—is the way it pivots to a meaty central subject that isn’t Trump but has prescient echoes.”
That would be Moore’s hometown, Flint, Michigan, where he made his groundbreaking first feature, Roger & Me, in 1989. “As usual,” writes Adam Nayman at the Ringer, in Fahrenheit 11/9, “Moore doesn’t always bother to draw any really strong or logical connections between his segments, using sarcasm and outrage as connective tissue.” But the section on Flint and its contaminated water crisis “is infuriating and powerful in a way that shows him at his indignant, muckraking best.” In addition to Flint, Moore also takes on the wave of teachers’ strikes in West Virginia and the shooting in Parkland, Florida.