Filmmaker Michael Moore, director and star of successful films such as “Roger & Me,” “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” has become the unwilling subject of a new documentary that raises questions about the credibility of his work and describes a “disturbing pattern of fact-fudging and misrepresentation,” reports the London Sunday Times.
While Moore has long been a favorite target of those on the political right, this new documentary – “Manufacturing Dissent” – comes from two left-leaning Canadian filmmakers who were once fans and who began their project expecting to tell a positive story.
“When we started this project we hoped to have done a documentary that celebrated Michael Moore. We were admirers and fans,” said Debbie Melnyk, who, with husband Rick Caine, made the film. “Then we found out certain facts about his documentaries that we hadn’t known before. We ended up very disappointed and disillusioned.”
Caine and Melnyk discovered, early on, that the public persona they knew was not the Moore they encountered when they began to examine his work.
“As investigative documentarists we always thought we could look at anything we wanted,” Caine said. “But when we turned the cameras on one of the leading figures in our own industry, the people we wanted to talk to were like: ‘What are you doing? Why are you throwing stones at the parade leader?'”
Their first disillusionment came in Flint, Mich., where Moore had portrayed his efforts to interview Roger Smith, the former chief executive of General Motors, about the company’s policies that led to closure of the city’s auto manufacturing plants. In “Roger & Me,” Moore failed to get Smith to talk to him. In reality, said Caine and Melnyk, Moore secured two on-camera interviews, but the scenes were left out, apparently for dramatic effect.
“Manufacturing Dissent” includes a long list of alleged exaggerations or distortions in Moore’s other films.
The pair said they attempted to interview Moore and question him about his editing practices and his views on where the line should be drawn between factual documentary and misleading propaganda.
“We had met him at a premiere of the Columbine film in Toronto, and he said, ‘Oh yes, talk to my people and they’ll set something up’,” said Caine. “We then called his people and they said he’s not doing any more interviews in Toronto. We had his e-mail, we sent a letter to his lawyers, we had his phone number in New York. But each time he said no.”
Caine and Melnyk said they soon began to meet with hostility from Moore and those around him, culminating in their being tossed out of a Moore speaking event at Kent State University and their camera being knocked aside by his sister, Anne.
Caine and Melnyk insist they should not be lumped in with Moore’s critics on the right and that their film is not an effort to dispute his claims.
“We didn’t want to refute anything,” Melnyk told the New York Times. “We just wanted to take a look at Michael Moore and his films. It was only by talking to people that we found out this other stuff.”
Indeed, the pair praise Moore for what he’s done to popularize the documentary genre.
“If you have to sell out your values and principles to get at a greater truth, where does that leave you?” said Melnyk. “If we think it’s wrong for the government to lie and manipulate, how do we think that [those on the left] doing it is the solution?”
“Manufacturing Dissent” is scheduled to show next week at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
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