Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Manufacturing Dissent

Star rating - (2)
Two Canadian documentarians chose the director of 'Farenheit 911' and 'Sicko' as their latest subject. ‘Manufacturing Dissent’ sets out to uncover the real Michael Moore by interviewing his critics, friends and former work colleagues. They find the obese political movie maker to be "a bit megalomaniacal at times, with a paranoid tinge." Rick Caine & Debbie Melnyk, both progressive liberals, have spent the summer promoting 'Manufacturing Dissent’ on Fox Tv and other right wing media across the USA. Their documentary is basically a Michael Moore style film about Michael Moore himself, as the obese movie maker spent months dodging requests to do a formal interview.

Intertwined amongst Caine & Melnyk being turfed out of Moores workshops or being stonewalled by his minders, the film makers highlight how Moore manipulated some scenes in his movies to create a more dramatic impact. In his defence however, by slightly altering reality, Moore has been highly successful in widening the appeal of documentaries to the wider public. Do the ends justify the means is the question the film makers failed to even contemplate let alone explore during their mission to '"separate fact, fiction and legend". The irony seems to be lost on them that by producing the largest grossing documentaries of all time, Moore has paved the way for 'Manufacturinthg Dissent' to be even considered by a distributor.

Manufacturing Dissent’ comes across as downright petty at times - Moore didn't pay his bills. He couldn't be trusted. He was mean to old men, He got rich. He got famous and so on. The movie digs up the (now very dated news) about Moore changing the chronology of some events portrayed in his movies. Now we learn that he has slightly embellished his personal history and are supposed to be shocked to learn that he actually enjoys his new celebratory lifestyle. But every cloud and all that. The success of Moores films has kick-started the Republicans documentary making business, even if mostly to rant against Moores view of the Iraq invasion and the Bush presidency. By the second half of the film the endless nit picking from some of the interviewees becomes sheer nonsense. We are expected to agree that Moore was mentally unhinged because he didn't agree with a chat show host comments that his first dramatic film, 'Canadian Bacon 'wasn't very good'.

The filmmakers go on to score an own goal by using the exact same techniques they criticise Moore for. Changing chronological details, faking events, and putting themselves in front of the camera to gatecrash events. The difference being of course- a fat campaigner in a baseball cap trying to bring down a President is much more entertaining than two middle class progressive liberals seeking 'truth'.

"Manufacturing Dissent" does provoke questions about why political documentaries are produced? Are they to entertain cola swiling audiences? To bolster the morale of campaigners? Produce a particular social change? or to enhance the film makers ego? These are the questions well worth exploring but sadly not none are answered in this movie.

Manufacturing Dissent is released on DVD on October 22nd

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