TORONTO – If things go awry for Michael Moore following the release of his latest politically charged documentary, the progressive provocateur says he has a plan to escape potential persecution in the U.S.: He’s moving to Canada.
It’s a pronouncement so common among aggrieved American liberals that it borders on a political trope. But Moore says he’s serious about his plot to vacate the U.S., and not only because of his long-standing affinity for Canada.
For Moore, the prospect of becoming a political refugee seems starkly plausible under the leadership of U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he portrays as a geopolitical threat in “Fahrenheit 11/9,” set to hit theatres Friday.
“(Trump) absolutely hates democracy, and he believes in the autocrat, in the authoritarian,” Moore said in a recent interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered earlier this month.
“I want us to survive this, but I can’t make any guarantees that that’s what’s going to happen. We’re in a bad place. We’re on the precipice of some very awful stuff.”
A spiritual sequel to Moore’s box-office-busting 2004 documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11, “Fahrenheit 11/9” is part political autopsy, part call to action. It offers Moore’s interpretation of the forces that led to Trump’s election in 2016, and puts forward grim predictions about where his presidency might be headed.
In doing so, Moore revisits hits from his cinematic catalogue of American societal ills and diagnoses new ones, cycling through issues ranging from the February school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla., to the water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Mich.
As Moore sees it, there’s plenty of blame to go around for the current state of affairs. He argues that out-of-touch political leaders in both major U.S. parties, a sensationalist press corps, corrupt campaign-backers and elite entertainers — including himself — helped enable Trump’s ascent, which he believes could lead to America’s downfall.
The film wavers between optimism about what Moore sees as an emerging populist uprising led by young people, women and minorities, and apocalyptic predictions of an authoritarian takeover of the U.S. government taken straight out of the history books.
In a sequence poised to invite controversy, Moore draws explicit parallels between Trump’s political trajectory and Hitler’s rise to power in the early 1930s, at one point dubbing audio of Trump over archival footage of a Nazi rally.
Moore insists that the dangers of the current political climate call for such an alarmist tone.
“This is a movie that takes (Trump’s) mask off, and exposes what he’s really up to, and what’s really going on here, and you may not see it, because you often don’t see it until it’s too late,” said Moore.
“I’m hoping we’re in that … moment before the moment it’s too late, and you can’t get back what you had.”
If that moment has indeed passed, for him at least, Moore said he’ll be looking northward for asylum. Among his credentials for citizenship, Moore boasts about his grandfather’s Ontario roots, as well as his devotion to the Canadian-made BlackBerry.
Still, Moore believes that Trump’s influence, to a limited extent, has seeped across the border. He expressed disappointment about the June election of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose fiery brand of populism championing the “little guy” and railing against so-called elites has drawn comparisons to Trump.
“Clearly, anyone can fall for it. Even Canadians can get played,” said Moore. “But look, Doug Ford would have to go a long way to match Trump.”
This assessment is consistent with Moore’s broader view that Canada’s problems barely register relative to the five-alarm fires he sees the U.S. as facing on several fronts.
“Canada has a lot of problems. You don’t need an American to come here and tell you what your problems are,” said Moore. “But (you shouldn’t) think for a second that you’re anywhere near what we have to take care of and correct.”
In Moore’s films, Canada is often touted as a would-be role model for the U.S.The filmmaker often relies on anecdotes to support his lofty views of the nation’s health-care system and gun-control policies, including a famous scene in 2002’s “Bowling for Columbine” in which he asserts that the country is so safe, people don’t bother to lock their doors.
But if Moore’s utopian portrayal seems removed from Canadian reality, Moore dismisses this line of criticism as symptomatic of what he views as Canada’s national complex: We’re just too hard on ourselves.
“When you hear compliments towards yourselves, it makes you nervous, I get that,” he said. “There is an unhealthy amount of self-loathing that goes on in Canada that’s really not necessary.”