Manufacturing Dissent: Uncovering Michael Moore

Manufacturing Dissent: Uncovering Michael Moore


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Documentaries have always been manipulated in the editing room. Of course, there are exceptions, where truth is everything and entertainment a dirty word, but when it's done and dusted, what’s that stuff on the cutting room floor? Putting a film together means making choices and one of those choices is what you leave out. Is Warhol’s Empire the only documentary that is untouched, honest and politically inactive? Is that why it’s the most boring movie ever made?

Michael Moore is certainly not boring. Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 made hundreds of millions of dollars, which for docs is unheard of. Did he cheat, lie, fake it, fudge it, fiddle the facts, remove evidence, fabricate evidence, spin the wheel, orchestrate the action? Probably. Do you care?

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You don’t have to like Michael. He is a driven man. And what drives him is injustice and bad government. He stands up and shouts. He ruins his arguments by throwing the kitchen sink at them. Fahrenheit 9/11 didn’t affect the Bush administration’s decision regarding whether to bring the boys back from Iraq. The opposite happened. His abrasive and persistent attacks on the man some people call Mr President backfired. It brought out the voters who otherwise might have stayed at home, as Senator Kerry, with the hopes of the liberal left, slipped beneath the waves.

Manufacturing Dissent is a frustrating exercise. Questions are asked, leaving answers hanging. Critics are polite and suggestive, rather than angry and fierce. Examples of inaccuracies in his films are pointed out. Heads talk (“He thought it more important to be quick and witty than thoughtful”) about Showman Mike, but what you remember is an emotional girl protesting against his Slacker Uprising tour.

“Have you seen Fahrenheit 9/11?” she is asked.

“No,” she says. “I am a very sensitive person. I cried when I saw Saving Private Ryan.”

There are two things going on here.

1. Who IS Michael Moore?

2. Trying to get to talk to him.

Because 2 is blocked and actively rejected, 1 is guesswork. The evidence points to a paranoid workaholic control freak who believes that ends justify means.

“Isn’t that what the CIA says?” asks one of his dissenters.

On the working class hero side of things, there are anomalies. He was brought up in Davison, Michigan, in a prosperous middle class suburb, not some smelly slum in Flint. His truck driver dress code and unmade bed makeover disguises a sharp intellect and considerable charm.

He is full of contradictions. That’s a cliché. Anyone who achieves anything is full of contradictions. You learn nothing of his private life, nor what he felt about the way he treated Charlton Heston in Bowling For Columbine. He cares passionately. That’s obvious. But does he care most about Showman Mike?

"I am beginning to think Michael Moore doesn’t want us to make this movie,” co-director Deborah Melnyk whines to camera. “I thought he liked Canadians.”


Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2007
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Manufacturing Dissent: Uncovering Michael Moore packshot
Canadian documentary filmmakers try in vain to interview Michael Moore.
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Director: Deborah Melnyk, Rick Caine

Writer: Deborah Melnyk, Rick Caine

Year: 2007

Runtime: 74 minutes

Country: Canada

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