Documentarian Michael Moore has spent his career attempting to use his filmmaking to right wrongs, so it’s only fitting that the “Fahrenheit 11/9” and “Roger and Me” director used his Critics’ Choice Documentary Lifetime Achievement Award to give his full 2003 Oscar acceptance speech.
When Moore won his first (and so far only) Oscar for his “Bowling for Columbine,” the outspoken filmmaker attempted to use his time on stage to speak out against then-President George W. Bush and the Iraq War. He was soon booed off stage, his time cut short after delivering his infamous comment, “We live in fictitious times.”
Fifteen years later, Moore dug up his speech and brought it to the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards Saturday evening. The Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association returned to Brooklyn’s BRIC to announce the third annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, with this year’s gala hosted by Bill Nye.
Robert De Niro presented Moore with his Lifetime Achievement Award while poking fun at his own outspoken political leanings, referring to his “nuanced and thorough assessment of the current political landscape” that he delivered at this year’s Tony Awards. When welcoming the filmmaker to the stage, the actor billed Moore as “a true, true American hero.”
“So, I was trying to figure out what to say tonight, or what to write,” Moore said. “And then I had this idea, and I got up this morning and I went rummaging through all these bankers’ boxes and files, and I knew I had kept this, and I found it.”
Moore pulled out his erstwhile Oscar speech, and provided a brief accounting of what occurred that evening, which took place just five days into the invasion of Iraq — from the initial discussion about not holding the awards show to his decision to ask all the nominees to join him on stage, to the booing — and culminated with him being “yanked” from the stage.
“I never got to finish that speech,” Moore said. “So if you wouldn’t mind… it’s not long! I’ll start with how I began, what you actually saw on television.”
The full text of that speech, complete with a few side notes from Moore himself (indicated in italics), follows:
“I’ve invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and they are here because they are in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction, but we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious President. That’s when all hell started.
We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Now, the cacophony of booing is getting quite loud and I can’t even hear myself. Whether it’s the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush.
Shame on you, Mr. Bush, now I’m just trying to be heard, this wasn’t even in the original speech, and I’m just telling people, in front of a billion people, shame on you, but keeping it clean, Bob. Now the microphone is lowering into the stage, they’ve struck up a band, the stage manager is giving me the heave-ho and I’m bending down to the microphone.
And any time you’ve got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up. That was the end of me, and they hauled me off the stage. …
So now, here for the first time ever, is the rest of my Oscar acceptance speech.
So before I close, I want to say a few words about nonfiction and how to use it as a cure for the many lies we are being told, and as a nonviolent weapon of revolution and change. I have read over the years that my first movie, ‘Roger and Me,’ kicked open the doors for documentary films, the first documentary to be widely distributed to the shopping mall cinemas and multiplexes of America.
The Academy, though, has not let me in as a member for 13 long years, not until just last month. I had heard all the reasons why: ‘Roger and Me,’ it’s not a documentary; ‘Roger and Me,’ documentaries are not supposed to be entertainment; you’re using your frivolous humor and it lessens the seriousness and the impact of what you’re trying to say; et cetera, et cetera.
Those of us from the now-dead factory towns of the Rust Belt who, like me, have just a high school education, I barely made it out of my senior year, I flunked English and I flunked math, but I got a D in French, we from the working class immediately know the class-based tone of those who speak to us, those who went to the finer schools, or even any school at all. I encourage everyone watching at home tonight in the Gary, Indianas of America, in the Camden, New Jerseys, in the San Ysidiros, the East St. Louis, and yes, the Flints and the Detroits and the Pontiacs and the Dearborns, to pick up a camera and fight the power. Make your voice heard and stop this senseless war.
Thank you and good night.”
Moore added, “And that was the end! I thought I would just be carried off on the shoulders of everyone, of Robert De Niro! Meryl Streep was standing.”
He ended with a call to action, timely as ever. “Fifteen years later now, tonight, we are not only still at war, but we have a president who has declared war on our democracy and war on us,” Moore said. “Keep picking up those cameras, everyone here in this room, because the people gathered here tonight, you may be America’s last line of defense. And hopefully the first line of rebuilding this country that he is currently destroying.”
The Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards are the sibling of January’s Critics’ Choice Awards, which take place every year in Los Angeles. Check out the full list of this year’s winners right here, which include “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and “Free Solo.”