By Kate K. Meyer
As I sat in my seat at IFC Center’s Stranger than Fiction documentary series Tuesday night, waiting for the sold-out screening of the Traverse City Film Festival pick Czech Dream to begin, I caught a snippet of a conversation between a woman and her friend sitting beside me.
“Everybody’s here for that Michael Moore,” the woman said to her friend, referring to the Oscar winner and TCFF co-founder’s Q&A planned for after the film. “Honestly, I’m sick and tired of him.”
“I’m looking forward to his movie on health care,” the friend replied. “I’d like to see what he’ll say about such a well-known subject.” At the mention of health care, the woman launched into a lament about her insurance company, which spurred a more emphatic conversation on whom to vote for in the next presidential election -- a spitfire debate cut short only by the dimming lights of the theater.
That’s the thing about Michael Moore: Love him or hate him, the man gets people talking.
Moore is in the last four weeks of cutting Sicko, the aforementioned exposé about health care in the United States; he has been working with editors from Fahrenheit 9/11, An Inconvenient Truth and God Grew Tired of Us, he said last night. His latest documentary will employ many of the same guerilla-style tactics used in his earlier films -- tactics that he might be wearing thin for a man with snowballing notoriety.
“It’s not as easy to make these films as it used to be,” he said, “because it’s harder for me to...”
“You get recognized,” STF programmer and host Thom Powers interjected.
“Yeah,” he said, explaining that pharmaceutical companies were tipped off to his project from the get-go, going so far as to create a Michael Moore hotline for employees to call in with spottings.
Moore’s take on the documentary form has often been criticized for bending facts or leaving out footage to fit with his theses. Perhaps with that in mind, Powers suggested that the term documentary might be more problematic than helpful.
“I don’t go into a bookstore and say I’m going to go buy a nonfiction book," Moore said. "I want to go buy a good book that either tells me a good story or whatever, and that story can be fiction or nonfiction, or a blend, or something McSweeney's-like, or whatever. I think when you say 'nonfiction,' which is for film maybe a better word than documentary... I don’t know. I always just set out to make, I hope, a good movie that people will enjoy seeing.”
The only question taken during the discussion came from the woman sitting next to me who asked if Moore had seen An Unreasonable Man, a documentary about Ralph Nader, with whom he worked for two years. He said he hadn’t. “Oh, what a shame -- you’re in it,” she said.
“I’m in a lot of movies,” Moore replied.
One movie he’s in but wasn’t talking about is Manufacturing Dissent, the new documentary on Moore himself made by Canadians Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk. The Reeler cornered him after the discussion to ask if he had seen the film.
“The Noam Chomsky film?” he asked, coyly referring to the 1992 Chomsky documentary Manufacturing Consent.
“No, Manufacturing DISSENT,” I said. “The film about you and your filmmaking methods?”
“No, I don’t know,” he said.
“You’ve never heard of it?” I asked. “It premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival last week?” (And there have been New York Times and Associated Press articles stating that repeated attempts to contact him for comment on the film went unreturned?)
“There are a lot of films made about me,” he said dismissively. “There’s Mike and Me… There’s probably nine or 10 of them out there.”
“It’s a cottage industry,” a man standing next to him added.
“So how do you feel about these films being made about you?” I asked.
“Well, I’m a public figure, so…” he trailed off with a shrug, before I was pushed away by others in the encompassing crowd.
Posted at March 21, 2007 11:21 AM
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