A word of advice to future Oscar winners: Don't begin Oscar day by going to church.
That is where I found myself this past Sunday morning, at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Santa Monica Boulevard, at Mass with my sister and my dad. My problem with the Catholic Mass is that sometimes I find my mind wandering after I hear something the priest says, and I start thinking all these crazy thoughts like how it is wrong to kill people and that you are not allowed to use violence upon another human being unless it is in true self-defense.
The pope even came right out and said it: This war in Iraq is not a just war and, thus, it is a sin.
Those thoughts were with me the rest of the day, from the moment I left the church and passed by the homeless begging for change (one in six American children living in poverty is another form of violence), to the streets around the Kodak Theater where antiwar protesters were being arrested as I drove by in my studio-sponsored limo.
I had not planned on winning an Academy Award for "Bowling for Columbine" (no documentary that was a big box-office success had won since "Woodstock"), and so I had no speech prepared. I'm not much of a speech-preparer anyway, and besides, I had already received awards in the days leading up to the Oscars and used the same acceptance remarks. I spoke of the need for nonfiction films when we live in such fictitious times. We have a fictitious president who was elected with fictitious election results. (If you still believe that 3,000 elderly Jewish Americans -- many of them Holocaust survivors -- voted for Pat Buchanan in West Palm Beach in 2000, then you are a true devotee to the beauty of fiction!) He is now conducting a war for a fictitious reason (the claim that Saddam Hussein has stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when in fact we are there to get the world's second-largest supply of oil).
Whether it is a tax cut that is passed off as a gift to the middle class or a desire to drill holes in the wilds of Alaska, we are continually bombarded with one fictitious story after another from the Bush White House. And that is why it is important that filmmakers make nonfiction, so that all the little lies can be exposed and the public informed. An uninformed public in a democracy is a sure-fire way to end up with little or no democracy at all.
That is what I have been saying for some time. Millions of Americans seem to agree. My book "Stupid White Men" still sits at No. 1 on the bestseller list (it's been on that list now for 53 weeks and is the largest-selling nonfiction book of the year). "Bowling for Columbine" has broken all box-office records for a documentary. My Web site is now getting up to 20 million hits a day (more than the White House's site). My opinions about the state of the nation are neither unknown nor on the fringe, but rather they exist with mainstream majority opinion. The majority of Americans, according to polls, want stronger environmental laws, support Roe vs. Wade and did not want to go into this war without the backing of the United Nations and all of our allies.
That is where the country is at. It's liberal, it's for peace and it is only tacitly in support of its leader because that is what you are supposed to do when you are at war and you want your kids to come back from Iraq alive.
In the commercial break before the best documentary Oscar was to be announced, I suddenly thought that maybe this community of film people was also part of that American majority and just might have voted for my film, which, in part, takes on the Bush administration for manipulating the public with fear so it can conduct its acts of aggression against the Third World. I leaned over to my fellow nominees and told them that, should I win, I was going to say something about President Bush and the war and would they like to join me up on the stage? I told them that I felt like I'd already had my moment with the success of the film and that I would love for them to share the stage with me so they could have their moment too. (They had all made exceptional films and I wanted the public to see these filmmakers and hopefully go see their films.)
They all agreed.
Moments later, Diane Lane opened the envelope and announced the winner: "Bowling for Columbine." The entire main floor rose to its feet for a standing ovation. I was immeasurably moved and humbled as I motioned for the other nominees to join my wife (the film's producer) and me up on the stage.