Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education "statistics" have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of WAITING FOR ... See full summary »
Manufacturing Dissent is a topical documentary seeking to separate fact, fiction, and legend. It chronicles Michael Moore on tour during the promotion of Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), all while exploring the politically charged climate in America that has prompted Moore's ascension from documentary filmmaker to icon of the political left. Written by
If you won't tell the truth because it's bad for the cause then the cause becomes a fiction, which is exactly what's happened. It's happened with the Left in the United States as a whole and it's happened with Michael Moore.
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Probably the biggest point that this film makes, regardless of your political beliefs, is that Mike Moore is largely a cultural icon rather than a strong and rational political voice. And following on from this, the film correctly draws a distinction between the more intelligent left - Chomsky, Hitchens and so on - and the popularist left like Moore, whose desire to bring about genuine political change is seemingly surpassed by an ambition to make money.
But it's far from one-sided. The film shows intelligent restraint at times with its criticism of Moore. For example, we are shown how Moore manipulated the chronology of Roger & Me, but one of the interviewees correctly points out that criticism of the manipulated chronology is largely pointless in real terms as there was no doubt that the closure of GM was devastating to Flint. I liked how it qualified or tried to balance some of the common criticism that we would hear from the die-hard Moore-haters.
Similarly, we get the reports of Moore being a shocking senior member of staff at the newspaper that he was fired from, yet we get another member of staff saying that Moore gave him a few days off work and paid for his airfares to and from Canada for the premier of his film. That balance helps you appreciate the film for rising above ridiculous one-sidedness that so many other documentaries are guilty of, including Moore's.
As for substance, the fact that the documentary makers are lefties that start off seemingly admiring and wanting to interview Moore (though we'll never know whether this was their real motivation from the beginning) works to alleviate concerns about this being a response from the right.
There are some troubling techniques that Moore employs to augment his documentaries, but that alone wasn't a killer punch. The knock-out blow really came from disgraceful facts that more severely undermines major points in Moore's documentaries, such as the fact that he did interview Roger Smith, despite the film's premise, and the fact that handguns are deeply restricted in Canada, despite Moore's implication that their gun laws are commensurate with US. A private Moore trust that owns Honeywell stock will similarly leave some Moore fans a bit red-faced.
But definitely the most important aspect that emerged was the view that he's just a celebrity and cult icon who sells popularist politics that lacks thoughtfulness and thoroughness. Well presented doco from the more intelligent left.
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