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It's hard to count how many documentaries have been made about Michael Moore, but those made by Canadian left-wing fans seem to be a bit scarcer. Supported largely by Canadian financiers, Manufacturing Dissent starts out as a balanced exploration of filmmaker and political personality Michael Moore. The film documents Moore during his 2004 national touring campaign for Fahrenheit 9/11, his politically sensational documentary that spoke out against the integrity of the Bush Administration. As the film progresses, the filmmakers are disappointingly unsuccessful in securing an interview with Moore, and as they try, facts arise questioning Moore's credibility as a journalist, his film-making techniques, and his personal character. It concludes on a much less optimistic note than at the beginning, gradually disclosing a reluctantly-developed disenchantment with the fervent Midwestern public activist. What makes Manufacturing Dissent particularly unique is its resistance from sensationalizing its condemning findings. With an attitude of professional reserve, Manufacturing Dissent strategically uses subtlety and a careful resolve to disclose straightforward facts and present the comments of interviewees with accuracy and integritya set of convictions that many viewers, in turn, observe to be lacking from Moore's bountiful supply. This is a film that speaks, first and foremost, to the die-hard fans of Michael Moore. Leftist followers owe it to themselves to experience the cautious, revealing process that this film provides.
This film showed at Austin's SXSW Film Festival and was very
well-received by audience. It is a balanced and fair biopic about
controversial leftist film maker Michael Moore. The film makers seem to
genuinely admire Moore's progressive politics and his desire to
mobilize Americans against President Bush and the Iraq War, but have
almost relunctantly come to question his methods. As the project
continues they explore the nature of Moore's fuzzy relationship with
the "truth." They become increasingly troubled by his penchant for
using just about any means to promote his political ends.
They document numerous inaccuracies and manipulation in several of his films. They suggest that Moore has become larger than life and cares more about his own success than his political goals. The portrait is a fair one that presents him as an insecure megalomaniac and roughly the leftist equivalent Rush Limbaugh. The audience is left to consider whether Moore really helps the causes that he supports or merely promotes greater political polarization for his own personal benefit.
This is a thoughtful and intelligent biopic that delves into Moore over-sized personality and in doing so raises many important questions about the Moore personally, about his films, about the nature and rules of documentary film making itself. Every Michael Moore fan should see it so that they can begin to evaluate the veracity and ethics that underlie his work.
I approached this film from the position of being a Moore fan.
I use the word "fan" loosely here really because while I've enjoyed his documentaries and come away from them believing I'd learned something, I've also had problems with them.
Now I don't want to get political here, I'll leave that for others to do. I just wanted to open my review with an honest statement about where I stand with Moore myself.
With that said, I felt this movie had far more problems than your average Moore film. I felt it was manipulative and at times, extremely biased. It felt to me like the film makers were just annoyed they couldn't really get any quality time with Moore. I got the distinct impression that Moore was not only aware of this movie but was aware of what the movie was trying to do. Namely, to try and cast a shadow over Moore using the very same techniques they damn Moore for using.
It was good that some aspects of why I've always been unhappy with some elements of Moores documentaries were addressed in this movie. Only the gullible believe Moore is unbiased and presenting only truth. However this film fails to satisfy my doubts because it laces the documentary with such bias itself that you cannot extract whats true and what is just purely anti-Moore propaganda.
I don't have particular feelings for or against the work Michael Moore does, so hopefully you won't see this as a pro-Moore attack on naysayers. The arguments and supporting evidence presented are are weak and blown-up, and in most cases hypocritical. A typical example of this is juxtaposing footage of Moore arriving at the Oscars, while nearby protesters demonstrate against the war. Trying to imply that Moore is just a glory-seeking filmmaker who would rather hobnob with celebrities than join in the protest, the point falls flat when you consider how the now infamous acceptance speech made by Moore (and the film itself) did more for the Anti-war cause than a street protest ever could. I am all in favour of films to counterbalance the polemics of Michael Moore, but please don't accuse him of manipulating footage and then do exactly that, adding sinister music. A badly-made film presenting a poorly-made case.
I liked that this film did not focus too much on the same stuff we've
all read about before. About half of the film discusses Michael Moore
before he made Bowling for Columbine. Specifically, they examine his
work as a magazine editor, and they examine Roger and Me. But even
then, the main focus wasn't to illustrate Moore's manipulative
techniques. Most people already know about that. Instead, the main
focus in the film was to illustrate that Moore, himself, is a phony.
There is a distinct parallel to the plot of Roger and Me, which I thought was too much of an homage to Moore, but perhaps appropriate given the context of this documentary. The film crew is constantly struggling to get an interview with Moore, and Moore consistently gives them the runaround.
So I guess one interesting aspect of the film is that they show how Moore is very willing to put other people in uncomfortable situations or catch them off guard so as to juxtapose their fumbling against his well-prepared rhetoric. However, when Moore is threatened with the same tactic by his opponents, he cowers and fights dirty to avoid it. He knows how chicken sh*t it is.
Though I'm aware of the various liberties Michael Moore takes with his
films, I never really gave it much careful thought. Mainly because I
like Michael Moore and I agree with many of the arguments he makes. The
film portrays Moore as a manipulative performance filmmaker who is
quite egoistical and doesn't allow for much dissent against his own
views when ever he organizes an event or make a speech. The film
portrays him as a man who doesn't practice what he preaches,
particularly when Moore's various security guards and media handlers
refuse to allow the filmmakers film Michael Moore events and speeches.
It demostrates that by careful editing, Michael Moore can manipulate
events to fit his version of what happens and is a master of pulling
stunts on camera to prove his point.
The film isn't a shrill diatribe about how Moore's ideas will lead to America's ruin. Instead it's a thoughtful film that asks people to be more media savy by setting Moore as an example. The fact that it's a Canadian production probably removes the filmmaker from the distracting American liberal and republican "issues" concerning Moore. Instead, we focus on the veracity of what Moore presents to us and the ethics of the way he manipulates the documentary genre. How Moore's appeal is not based on what he says but the entertainment value of how he presents his point of view.
After watching this film, I'm more cautious about Michael Moore, to always be mindful about what he presents and not always accept it as is. But even at that, I still like Michael Moore. He's a talented man who seems to have his heart in the right place when he makes his films and I don't think he's as egoistical as the film suggests he is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some plot spoilers ahead.
This movie may seem like an anti-Michael Moore screed, but in reality it was a lot more balanced on the issue than I had originally anticipated. I was actually surprised that the filmmakers were able to interview people who worked with Michael Moore, or those who supported the movies he had done. To be fair, this movie was biased towards an anti-Moore bent, but on the whole the criticism was not vicious.
It was amusing to see the filmmakers use the same tactics that Moore used in his movies against him, such as using fake credentials to get into an event, or shoving a microphone in a celebrity's face, in this case Moore himself. To his credit, Moore seemed very gracious and respectful towards the filmmakers, unlike the secretaries and company representatives who rebuffed Moore in "Roger and Me."
As with Moore's own films, one must be wary of the claims those being interviewed made against Moore, such as the assertion that Moore *did* interview Roger Smith, or that Moore's charity was tied up with some big-name defense companies. Moore has just as much right to deny these claims as anyone who is accused by Moore of doing something suspicious. I recommend doing your own research before you swallow some of the claims presented in "Manufacturing Dissent"; though, to be be fair, those being interviewed, or some anti-Moore book, make the claims against Moore, rather than the filmmakers themselves. The "Donahue" footage, though, seems credible.
Some of the best stuff is in the deleted scenes of the DVD, such as the parody of the cartoon from "Bowling for Columbine", which had the same ultra-cheap computer-animated style and fast-paced dialogue and narration. I also liked the discussion of Flint's affinity for "Coney Island Hot Dogs."
I recommend this movie as a counterpoint to Michael Moore's bold so-called "documentaries", but be careful with regards to some the claims made by the filmmakers here.
how people will defend Michael Moore as if somehow showing he is
dishonest is representative of the democrat party as a whole. I found
this movie an honest look at Michael Moore and who the man really is,
compared to what he sells himself to be. Sure, the filmmakers were
probably a little miffed at Moore by the end of their film, but that
was a result of Michael's mentality. He claims to support the little
man, but offers little support for the crew of this film who ask time
and again for a sit down interview.
Michael is doing the same thing that he demonized Roger Smith for supposedly doing 20 years ago. On top of that his excuses are incredibly lame. "I can't interview with you until after the election, but then I have to sleep for 6 months,.. then we can do an interview." "Oh now, I can't do an interview because I am about to start my next movie, and it will be another years or so before I could possibly do an interview." (not exact quote mind you)You would expect someone like him to not only be supportive of those who admire him, but also a fellow documentary filmmaker.
So yes a large part of this film is meant to show Moore's character, which seems to have more of the same qualities as the type of people he claims to be against as opposed to those he claims to defend. Apart from that it is not hard to find evidence of his factual inaccuracies in his films. It amazes me how people still defend his work only because he is outspoken and shares the same political views. A little research will bring up many things that show how dishonest his work is.
Bottom line.. this is a film made by left winged filmmakers who are not making a documentary against democrats, but rather a dishonest filmmaker that ultimately would do more to harm the party he claims to represent rather than help it. I don't care how much I agreed with someone's view points, I would never support someone that was this dishonest, and in fact would be ashamed to have them be apart of my party.
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.
The makers of MANUFACTURING DISSENT say that they began this
documentary as fans of Michael Moore. Whether or not this is really
true isn't really important. What IS important is that they bring up
many issues concerning Michael Moore that he and his supporters simply
won't honestly address. The biggest problem (and it's almost always
ignored by the press) is that he makes so-called "documentaries"--yet
in order to make his points, be often misrepresents and distorts the
truth again and again. And, in essence, they aren't true documentaries,
but are more like propaganda pieces because of the lies and
fabrications. Now there's nothing wrong with making a propaganda
piece--but don't call it a documentary or refuse to acknowledge the
distortions. This IS Moore's m.o., though ironically, he himself
refuses to discuss or explain his films unless it's to a friendly
audience that doesn't in any way question his methods. The makers of
this film try, again and again in vain, to talk with him just to ask
some questions concerning his films. This is especially reasonable
considering that Moore himself made a name for himself by ambushing
people for his films--and here they won't let people with any questions
come close to him....period. So a man who is "of the people" and a
"champion of free speech" is, ironically, only interested in this when
it comes to others, not himself.
As to how well this documentary was made, it seemed pretty honest and straight forward. It tended to interview people on all ends of the political spectrum and even many of his supporters on the left acknowledged the way he plays fast and loose with the truth in his films or in his public comments. Some felt that the ends justified the means while others seemed angry at Moore for being more interested in self-aggrandizement than the issues he publicly champions. I know that there will be many who think the entire film is evil but the bottom line is that it asks good questions AND isn't just a one-sided piece. There were many different opinions concerning the man that were in the film. What's not to like about that?!
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