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Bowling for Columbine: Film Techniques

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Bowling for Columbine is a film by Michael Moore about the shooting at Columbine High School. Moore, using his average American persona, explores controversial issues such as gun control in American and the role of media in contributing to the culture of fear. He conveys his viewpoints as well as cultural perspectives through a range of different film techniques. Three of these techniques includeinterviews, archival footage and intertextuality.

Interviews are a main technique used in Bowling for Columbine- as it is in most documentaries. Moore interviews multiple people throughout the movie, getting their opinions and their viewpoints. But Moore also conveys his own viewpoints through the interview, by using ‘leading questions’. A leading question is a type of question in which the interviewer subtly prompts the respondent to answer in a particular way. They ensure that the interviewer has control. Moore constructs his interviews in an almost mocking fashion, even firing off questions rapidly to further put pressure on the interviewee.

However, Moore does not always subtly mock his interviewees. We see this when he interviews Marilyn Manson. He gives Manson a lot of time to speak and asks him sensible questions that he can respond to with his opinion, showing that he agrees with Manson’s view about the role of media, and how they are embedding fear in American society. =

Another technique Moore uses is intertexuality, the technique of using an unrelated text in a film. Intertexuality is used very effectively in this documentary to show Moore’s viewpoints.

While this technique is used consistently, one of the examples that stood out to me was the clip featuring comedian Chris Rock, speaking about gun control. Using humor, it tells us what Moore really thinks of the gun usage in America.

The third technique that I will be speaking about is the use of archival footage. Archive footage is material obtained from an archive and then inserted into a documentary, to show historical events and real footage. It can be used to add authenticity to the documentary and provide actual fact. It makes the audience feel as if the information and viewpoints being presented to them are plausible, and something they should believe. The use of archival footage presents Moore’s viewpoints in the most factual, raw way possible.

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