New Internationalist

Manufacturing Dissent

December 2007

The filmmaker who turned political documentaries into blockbusters comes under scrutiny in Manufacturing Dissent. Oversized Michael Moore is portrayed as ‘a bit megalomaniacal at times, with a paranoid tinge’.

Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk, both progressive liberals, highlight how Moore manipulated scenes in his Roger and Me and Bowling for Columbine movies for more dramatic impact. By the second half of the film the endless nit-picking from some of the interviewees becomes petty. Moore was mentally unhinged because he didn’t agree with a chat-show host that his first dramatic movie ‘wasn’t very good’. Moore didn’t pay his bills. He upset an old man. He got rich. He got famous and so on.

The filmmakers even score an own goal by using techniques for which they criticize Moore – altering chronological details, promoting themselves and gate-crashing events. The difference being, of course, that a fat campaigner in a baseball cap trying to bring down a President is much more entertaining than two middle-class liberals seeking ‘truth’.

Manufacturing Dissent does provoke questions about why political documentaries are produced. To educate the masses, produce a particular social change or to promote a filmmaker’s career? These are questions well worth exploring but sadly none are answered here. The irony seems to be lost on the filmmakers that by producing the largest-grossing documentaries of all time, Moore has paved the way for Manufacturing Dissent to be even considered by a distributor.

This column was published in the December 2007 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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