In Michael Moore’s latest wide-ranging documentary, “Fahrenheit 11/9,” the filmmaker focuses on Donald Trump’s rise to power and indicts the entire existing political system. But the film also celebrates some new heroes, includes Parkland school shooting survivors and the whistleblowers of Flint, Michigan’s ongoing water crisis. They joined Moore for the film’s world premiere on opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival, and during the post-screening Q&A, he brought them onstage.
After the film premiered to a packed Ryerson theater — with a crowd appreciative enough that one audience member yelled out, “Michael for president!” — Moore took the stage alongside Parkland survivors David Hogg, Flint whistleblower April Cook-Hawkins, and her husband, Reverend Jeffrey Hawkins.
Like many of his fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors, Hogg has spent the past few months turning his outrage into action, and the ongoing activism of the students is a focal point of the film. Hogg opened the floor with a series of questions: “Who’s ready to save America? Who’s ready to make America that we say it is on paper and make it the actual country that it wants to be?”
Cook-Hawkins, a former employee of the Genesee County Health Department who gives her first on-camera interview to Moore in the film, was still so emotional from the film’s screening that she opted to turn her time over to her husband, pastor of Flint’s own Prince of Peace church.
Hawkins echoed a sentiment that emerges during the film’s repeated visits to Flint. “In the video, Michael says it best,” he said. “We look at our realities as different from most, just because of the things that we deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes, our reality’s a little bit different.”
The same can be said of the realities facing the Parkland survivors, including brothers Ryan and Matt Deitsch, who spoke after Hawkins and seemed to be newly invigorated by the material. “After seeing this movie, after seeing everything on screen, and seeing the part that we played in this narrative, a lot needs to change, a lot needs to happen, and a lot just needs to get better,” Ryan Deitsch said.
“This film needs to be seen by more people,” his brother Matt added, “and this film needs to inspire people to actually vote on November 6. Because with youth [voting] registration in double digits in every single state, I know change is going to come.”
Moore did opt to speak later, and closed out the night musing about the appropriate label for the kids who came after millennials. The Parkland kids told him: “We’re the mass shooting generation,” he recalled. An audience member moved to provide a new title, yelling out, “the generation of hope!” Moore wasn’t so sure. “Well, no, I’m against hope,” he said. “Hope is back then with Obama. What we need is the generation of action.”
“Fahrenheit 11/9” world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Briarcliff Entertainment will release it on September 21.