Michael Moore has never been one to be silenced — except just once: At the Academy Awards held in 2003. When the filmmaker and political activist won the Oscar for Best Documentary, awarded to his gun control opus Bowling for Columbine, his attempt to make a fiery anti-war speech was booed, prompting the orchestra to cut him off at the halfway mark. Saturday night, some 15 years later, he finally read what he had long ago prepared, this time in its entirety.
The occasion was the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, held at BRIC in Brooklyn, where Won’t You be My Neighbor?, Morgan Neville’s doc on Fred Rogers, won Best Documentary and Best Director. Moore was there to receive a Lifetime Achievement award, and he felt that was a good enough time to finish what he started a decade-and-a-half prior.
When Moore attempted to make his Oscar speech, on March 23, 2003, the Iraq War was a mere four days old. Moore did not mince words. By the time he got to an impassioned “Shame on you, Mr. Bush” — and you can watch the whole thing right here — the auditorium was a mix of deafening cheers and boos. (Incidentally, on Sunday then-president George W. Bush received the Liberty Medal for his work with vets. The war that started under his watch, for reasons that were later proven inaccurate, is estimated to have claimed the lives of over 5,000 American soldiers, and over half a million total.)
But never say never. Moore waited till an administration that’s been even more poorly received than Bush’s to return to his remarks, perhaps to see how much of it once again rings true. (Mention of “fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president” certainly don’t seem relevant.) Here, thanks to IndieWire, is the full speech, with Moore’s on-the-spot annotations in italics.
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 himself was most recently seen with Fahrenheit 11/9, his attempt to do for president Donald J. Trump what he once did for president George W. Bush. He recently discovered that amongst his footage were glimpses of Cesar Sayoc, the Trump supporter who allegedly sent numerous pipe bombs to many Democrats and the New York City building that houses CNN.