Bowling for Columbine is a 2002 documentary film written, directed, produced, and narrated by Michael Moore. The film explores what Moore suggests are the causes for the Columbine High School massacre and other acts of violence with guns. Moore focuses on the background and environment in which the massacre took place and some common public opinions and assumptions about related issues. The film also looks into the nature of violence in the United States.
The film brought Moore international attention as a rising filmmaker and won numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature, a special 55th Anniversary Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and the César Award for Best Foreign Film.
Moore follows up his climate of fear thesis by exploring the popular explanations as to why gun violence is so high in the United States. He examines Marilyn Manson as a cause, but states that German citizens listen to Marilyn Manson more per capita and that the country has a larger Goth population than does the United States, with less gun violence (Germany: 381 incidents per year). He examines violent movies, but notes that they have the same violent movies in other countries, showing The Matrix with French subtitles (France: 255 incidents per year). He also examines video games, but observes that many violent video games come from Japan (Japan: 39 incidents per year). He concludes his comparisons with the suggestion that the United States’ violent history is the cause, yet negating that with the violent histories of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom (UK: 68 incidents per year). Moore ends his segment with gun-related-deaths-per-year statistics of a few major countries: Japan: 39 (0.030/100,000) Australia: 65 (0.292/100,000) United Kingdom: 68 (0.109/100,000) Canada: 165 (0.484/100,000) France: 255 (0.389/100,000) Germany: 381 (0.466/100,000) United States: 11,127 (3.601/100,000)
In Moore’s discussions with various people—including South Park co-creator Matt Stone, the National Rifle Association’s then-president Charlton Heston, and musician Marilyn Manson—he seeks to explain why the Columbine massacre occurred and why the United States’ violent crime rate (especially concerning crimes committed with firearms) is substantially higher than other nations’.
The film title originates from the story that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold — the two students responsible for the Columbine High School massacre — attended a school bowling class early that morning, at 6:00 AM, before they committed the attacks at school starting at 11:17 AM. Later investigation showed that this was based on mistaken recollections, and Glenn Moore of the Golden Police Department concluded that they were absent from school on the day of the attack.
Moore incorporates the concept of bowling in other ways as well. For example, the Michigan Militia uses bowling pins for their target practice. When interviewing former classmates of the two boys, Moore notes that the students took a bowling class in place of physical education. Moore notes this might have very little educational value; the girls he interviews generally agree. They note how Harris and Klebold had a very introverted lifestyle and a very careless attitude towards the game, and that nobody thought twice about it. Moore asks if the school system is responding to the real needs of their students or if they are reinforcing fear. Moore also interviews two young residents of Oscoda, Michigan; Moore suggests a culture of fear created by the government and the media. He says that fear leads Americans to arm themselves, to gun-making companies’ advantage. Moore suggests sarcastically that bowling could have been just as responsible for the attacks on the school as Marilyn Manson, or even President Bill Clinton, who launched bombing attacks on several countries around that time.