"A documentary Michael Moore *doesn't* want to star in."
SCREENED AT THE 2007 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: The equally loved and hated (depending on who you ask) Michael Moore enjoys getting in front of the camera as he exposes political and corporate corruption – first in “Roger & Me,” then in “Bowling for Columbine,” and finally in 2007's most talked about film “Fahrenheit 9/11.” But in “Manufacturing Dissent,” a documentary about the documenatrian, he's not so accessible.Directors Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine were sincere fans of Moore, so much so that they wanted to explore his life and message (and ultimately his controversial filmmaking methods) via a documentary of their own. What they discovered was a man who was hard to find and had little to nothing to say, at least when Melnyk and Caine tried to track him down and ask him questions.
But they don't really need an interview with Moore to get the story – bodyguards aside, Moore's friends, critics, coworkers, and even residents from his hometown, give it to us. As a result, Manufacturing Dissent might be one of the most honest films ever to feature Michael Moore in it.
So what dirt did Melnyck and Caine dig up? Manufacturing Dissent is not a series of potshots at Moore; instead it's a thorough investigation into his life and career and it's so fair in fact that you might start to fidget in your seat a bit. You'll likely leave the theater not hating or loving Moore. You'll see the funny, entertaining man of the people, saying what everyone else is afraid to say, and the politically-overcharged, insecure man who ingeniously manipulates facts and people to get his point across and might be more eager for the spotlight than a social change.
Manufacturing Dissent insightfully examines not just Moore, but his political context. Questions are asked about whether or not films like Fahrenheit 9/11 create new fans of the Left or just create more drama, or whether the means really do justify the ends – and they are asked without pretending like the answers will be easy to find.
However, where Manufacturing Dissent disappoints is that its directors are perhaps a little too aware that they are vulnerable to accusations of being anti-Moore, and so they intentionally avoid making conclusions – but conclusions and daring analysis of Moore and the documentary form that probably would have made the film more intriguing and helpful."Manufacturing Dissent" should come along with every Micheal Moore documentary, as it's really a disclaimer: "watch Moore's films at your own risk.” This is a movie that both the hardcore fans and the sworn enemies of the documentarian should soak in.