After creating a film about gun violence in America, documentarian Michael Moore is still obsessed with things that go “boom.”
Six weeks ago, Moore, the man behind such movies as “Bowling for Columbine” and “Roger & Me,” hooked up with System of a Down in Los Angeles to start shooting the video for “Boom!” from the band’s latest LP, Steal This Album!
“Michael Moore seemed like the only real choice for directing,” System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian said. “He’s an amazing storyteller and he’s not egotistical about his work because he approaches it from the angle of the truth and leaves himself out of it. He lets the camera reveal whatever happens, and he’s a very courageous person. So to me, it was a no-brainer.”
Moore was excited about working with a cutting-edge, politically aware group like System, and counts himself a fan.
“He said he was a fan of the music and he had our CDs,” Tankian said. “It was one of those, ‘You’re kidding me? You know us?’ kind of things.”
For the video, Moore, who helmed the video for Rage Against the Machine’s “Sleep Now in the Fire” in 2000, shot System of a Down interacting with the crowd at the Los Angeles peace march of February 15.
“We’ve each got little DV cameras in our hands,” Tankian said. “We went around and interviewed people, which is kind of a switch for us because we’re usually the ones at the other end of the camera. It was really cool walking up to people and asking them, ‘What’s the overwhelming emotion that brought you here today? Why did you feel you had to be here?,’ and just seeing people tell their stories.”
Moore plans to weave the shots into a collage from other February 15 antiwar marches in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China; Golden Gate Park in San Francisco; Hyde Park in London; and locations in Oslo, Norway; Bangkok, Thailand; and Cape Town, South Africa. Moore also shot residents from Mill Valley, California’s Redwoods Retirement Center marching with their canes, walkers and wheelchairs, and Harlem youth marching down 125th Street in New York, and may incorporate animation sequences in the video, which is currently in post-production.
“The majority of people in these peace marches are your average families with kids,” Tankian said. “We didn’t think that the media has really portrayed the enormous aspect and the beauty of people on the street voicing their opinion. And that’s what it is to be American, man.”
As seemingly political as the video for “Boom!” is, Tankian sees it more as a rallying call than an act of defiance.
“It’s not really even about politics to me,” he said. “It’s about the beauty of human life and it’s about telling people they can make a difference — that it’s our decision as Americans to decide whether to go war or not — and not someone else’s.”
The song “Boom!” is about the horror of war and how governments throw exorbitant sums of money into the military and overlook other key domestic and international issues. Before one of the choruses, Tankian sings, “Four thousand hungry children leave us per hour from starvation/ While billions are spent on bombs creating death showers.”
“To me, ‘Boom!’ is kind of like building a little pyramid of what may or may not lead us to bomb someone or be at war,” he said. “It’s about human life, and there’s a lot of civilians that die when bombs fall, and that’s the problem. [Taking out Saddam Hussein] isn’t a matter of making an incision and going in and taking one person and taking them to jail. It’s the death of many innocent people who just happen to be living there, and it’s a travesty.”