Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Inconvenient Truth About Michael Moore

I have long been a proponent of Michael Moore's. While his methods are often questionable-- ignoring inconvenient truths and tampering with chronology-- he brings issues (the closing of a GM factory, gun control, etc.) to the forefront that the powers that be would rather be swept under the rug. For that, his films have unquestionable and lasting value. I never bought the "his movies are op-eds, not traditional documentaries" argument. I think that is a self-serving defense (or offense) and anyone exercising intellectual honesty (I might not agree with McCain's politics, but I love that term) would admit that audiences go into a documentary expecting an adherence to the truth. Yes, facts are bent to prove a point. But, outright deception is another matter.

In that vein, this piece in Sunday's New York Times, was profoundly disturbing. It detailed a new documentary about Moore, called Manufacturing Dissent (the film premieres March 10 at SXSW), by a Toronto-based couple. The article describes how the filmmakers, Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine, were initially firmly pro-Moore, but through the process of discovery in the making of the film, they came to feel much more ambivalent. They discovered what the Times referred to as numerous sins of omission and commission on Moore's part in all of his films.

To me, the most damning example was the fact that Moore had actually interviewed Roger Smith in Roger & Me, but left the interview on the cutting room floor. To me (and, admittedly, without having seen Dissent) this undercuts the very premise of the film. Moore presented himself as a goofy populist, representing the people, as he tried to get an explanation for the closing of the factory, but being thwarted at every turn by the heartless Smith. The fact that Moore actually got a sit down with Smith, while it changes nothing about the destruction of Flint, strikes at the credibility of Moore. Wouldn't anything Smith had to say-- or just the very fact that he agreed to the interview-- have been relevant? Then, why didn't Moore show it? Was it because Smith said something that didn't dovetail with Moore's thesis? Did Moore botch the interview? Or would it simply have interfered with the charming structure of the movie, built on his inability to get to Smith?

I don't want to condemn Moore without hearing his side of the story. But, here's the (possibly most disturbing) thing-- Moore refused to talk to the filmmakers. According to the Times piece, Moore's sister even shoved their cameras out of the way at an event. Moore's films, his persona, his popularity, are predicated on his doggedness at trying to expose those who try to hide their secrets from a victimized public. But, now, Moore appears to be acting just like those that he condemns.

Hopefully, the time will come when the filmmakers can have their sit-down with Moore. And here's betting they won't leave it on the cutting room floor.


At 11:30 AM, Anonymous b&q garden furniture said...

I agree to a certain extent I think Moore is about himself rather than the subjects he chooses, a fine example is one you have mentioned, the interview with Roger Smith, it like making a movie called the life of Elvis and then showing one on dinosaurs and never once mentioning him, he is one of those who thinks he is more important than they really are.

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Rianne said...

Well said.

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