Capitalizing on Capitalism
An interview with director, Michael Moore
When I first heard I was getting face time with the infamous non-fiction filmmaker, Michael Moore, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Whether you watch his movies or not, you likely have an opinion about him and his politics and opinions about him tend to be extreme. His detractors don’t give him a fair shake and even his supporters can tell you a thing or two they don’t like about him. Is he really the champion of the people he purports to be or is he riding their miserable coattails all the way to the bank? After having spoken with him though, I can tell you plainly that Moore doesn’t care about what anyone thinks of him. Moore only cares about one thing – America – and what people think of her.
The reason I know this is not because Moore couldn’t stop gushing about America but rather because he couldn’t stop apologizing for it when we spoke. “We Americans, let me tell you, and you can believe me if you want to, we are really good people,” he tells me after he discovers I’m Canadian. I assure him that I like Americans just fine, that some of my best friends are Americans. Perhaps I wasn’t convincing enough because he goes on. “We have a good heart; we come up with a lot of great ideas. Somehow lately though, we have gone into a dark place and ignorance is our wall we can’t climb out of.” I’m used to Moore wagging his finger at behaviour he deems bad on camera but hearing the disappointment in his country direct from his mouth was disconcerting.
In CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, Moore’s latest controversial feature, he directs his lens at a facet of the American foundation that has been crumbling at the base as of late – the economy. Following the economic crisis or collapse or catastrophe, depending on what media inspired catch phrase you are partial to, Moore decided to explore the system that was falling apart in an effort to see if it is truly worth saving. “I want people to get angry enough to become active citizens and try to get this country back into the hands of the people and not the corporations,” Moore says of what he hopes people take away from the film. His initial aspirations make way for doubt though soon enough. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen or if it is even possible,” he continues. “It may be too late.”
Moore has been at this for a long time. His first feature, Roger & Me, was released in 1988 and he has been churning out films about gun control, health care and abuse of governmental authority ever since. It may not be possible to quantify exactly how much impact that has had but it is fair to say that, as a non-fiction filmmaker, he has had a greater influence on the general public than any other before him. “I have the privilege of making non-fiction films and reaching an audience of people who don’t go to non-fiction films.” Despite his disappointment in some aspects of his influence, he is certainly proud of how wide his reach is. “Studio surveys have shown that seven times out of ten, a person coming out of my movie is seeing a documentary in a theatre for the very fist time.”
I don’t know what’s more disturbing about that statistic – that so few people see documentaries in the theatre or that Michael Moore actually reads studio surveys.
At the time of our interview, Moore has no other project on deck. As he sits in front of me, looking like he should be drinking a beer in the backyard instead of promoting an internationally distributed film, I wonder if his exploits are starting to discourage him more than he realizes. Even as he begins spitting out random trivia bits about how 11% of Americans polled in a recent survey couldn’t find America on the map, I’m not swayed. Even as he follows these stats by saying, “This is what I’m dealing with. Sadly, this is what the world is dealing with,” I refuse to give up on him. One just needs to turn to one of the last things Moore says in Capitalism to remember his resolve. “I refuse to live in a country like this and I’m not leaving.”
Capitalize on that, Mr. Moore.
For Black Sheep’s original review of CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, just click the title.