Michael Moore Tells 'Fahrenheit 11/9' Washington, D.C., Premiere: "We Are All Complicit"

Michael Moore attends the premiere of Briarcliff Entertainment's 'Fahrenheit 119' - Getty - H 2018
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The filmmaker screened his new film, 'Fahrenheit 11/9,' in the nation's capital, where he urged the audience to get out and vote.

Michael Moore brought his documentary Fahrenheit 11/9 to Washington, D.C., on Monday evening, welcoming fans, gamely answering questions and offering suggestions for a path forward, talking so long to reporters and audience members that he stretched the two-hour premiere into a nearly four-hour event. 

The film takes a scathing look at American politics and culture in the two years since Trump was elected — and spares no offenders on either side of the aisle. The packed house at D.C.'s historic Uptown Theater — where, he recounted, he watched movie premieres himself during his time spent in Washington writing Roger & Me — was filled with nearly 700 people. 

In the film, Moore takes aim at injustice everywhere, siding heavily with people whose voices go unheard — particularly those in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. The film also lingers on the Democratic National Committee, watching as voters in West Virginia are visibly devastated when their votes for Bernie Sanders get tallied instead for Hillary Clinton. It illuminates the political corruption that leads to a nation that stays home rather than casts a vote in an election when they feel they can't make a difference. 

With his new movie, Moore also takes a deep dive into the rise of Trump, whom he calls an "evil genius who outsmarted the smartest person ever to run for president," even suggesting that one might blame Gwen Stefani, but ultimately positing that the real culprit is the American public. 

"Politicians are no different than us. Who in this room has not, at some point in your life, made a decision because of the money? You took a job … not because it was going to make this world a better place but because you were going to make more money? What man in here at some point in his life has not witnessed the boss … sexually harass a woman at work and turned your head the other way because the other choice was losing your job, and losing your money?" Moore asked rhetorically during a post-film Q&A with Nell Minnow, a Washington film critic and assistant editor at RogerEbert.com. Moore had also promised that a "special guest" would appear — Sen. Bernie Sanders — but he didn’t arrive, his absence blamed on a Senate vote.

Politicians, Moore said, are a reflection of the people they serve. Want better politicians? Raise our standards not only for them, but also for ourselves. "We all have to quit turning our heads the other way when we see a woman being abused. We all have to start making decisions not based on money but based on what is right. And it may require a sacrifice … but in the end, we'll have a better society," he said.

The filmmaker pointed to the apathy that allowed Trump to win the election — such as the 90,000 Michigan voters who voted for an entire ticket of Democrats but left the top box, the one for president, blank.

Moore even admitted to a little apathy of his own: "I gave up on the DCCC back in '16 because I was trying to figure out how to make a contribution to Hillary [in addition to] just giving her money. And I thought, 'You know, Trump has such thin skin that all she needs to do is slip the comedy shiv right under his thin skin and he will implode, right on live television.' So I called up Amy Schumer and Chris Rock and Bill Maher and I said, 'Can we form like a Justice League of satire to help Hillary? We won't tell anybody; we'll just quietly write stuff and submit it.' They all said 'Yes, we're in.' And when I contacted the campaign, within a day I was told thanks but no thanks. 'Too dangerous, too risky; that comedian is dirty, that comedian has that problem, that one is … ooooh no.' And I thought, 'Wow… if they're turning this down, who else are they turning down?' They were so confident that they had this election in the bag." 

If audiences take one lesson from this film, Moore said he hopes that it is that "Trump didn't fall from the sky. Trump is us. Trump only exists because we allow him to exist. New York City had 40 years to get rid of Trump … but what did the press of New York do to Trump when they saw him breaking the law, when they saw him discriminating, when they saw him treating women the way he treated them? They gave him an affectionate nickname: the Donald. [The press] looked the other way because he was entertainment, he was tabloid fodder, and we just loved having the Donald. And now look what we have. We are all complicit in this, and we all have to share some of that responsibility for what we have, and we are all required to act in the next 50 days."