Michael Moore's ‘Sicko' Stunts
By James Hirsen
I reported a while back on how filmmakers Debbie Melnyck and Rick Caine had set out to film a biography of someone they truly admired. However, while producing "Manufacturing Dissent," the two made a discovery that their hero, Michael Moore, was far from the person, or for that matter the professional, that they had imagined.
During their movie making experience, Melnyck and Caine learned about Moore's fabricated persona; in particular that he did not grow up in working class Flint, Mich., but in Davison, a wealthy nearby suburb.
They discovered that Moore was not removed as editor of Mother Jones for political reasons as he has claimed, but was fired for bad editing. They learned that Moore shot footage of himself and interspersed it with other events to imply things that never actually happened (such as Moore asking Roger Smith, former CEO of General Motors, a question at a shareholders' meeting).
The most devastating information unearthed, though, is that Moore actually did speak with then-GM chairman Roger Smith, whose supposed evasion is the central premise of "Roger & Me," but withheld the footage from the film. (Premiere previously reported this but "Manufacturing Dissent" actually displays footage of Moore interviewing Smith.)
"Anybody who says that is a [expletive] liar," Moore told The Associated Press when confronted with the charge at his Michigan "Sicko" sneak preview.
Moore also admitted that he had "a good five minutes of back and forth" with Smith at a 1987 shareholders' meeting, as reported by Premiere magazine in 1990. But Moore claims that was before he began working on "Roger & Me" and had nothing to do with the film.
By evading interviews with Melnyck and Caine, Moore and his staff behaved like the corporate targets that Moore despises. At one event, the filmmakers' soundboard was unplugged while other reporters were allowed to tape. At another event, a staffer kicked the filmmakers out of an arena and threw their camera to the ground.
An indication that the makers of "Manufacturing Dissent" had a serious change of heart about Moore was revealed in the tagline used to market the film. It read: "Michael Moore doesn't like documentaries. That's why he doesn't make them." A slogan that appeared on movie posters also conveyed their dampened sentiments: "It's Never Been so Hard to Get Michael Moore in Front of the Camera."
Because the criticism of Moore came from self-described "progressive liberals," who were originally motivated by their admiration for Moore before they reluctantly concluded that he was not what he appeared to be, the mainstream press actually treated the film more favorably than similar polemic material from the right.
Moore's talent has been to bring humor, a brisk pace and controversy to the documentary genre. "Manufacturing Dissent" demonstrated that Moore also brings fabrication.
Can we expect Moore of the same from "Sicko?"