documentaries that can make you lose faith in humanity can, at times, be quite disheartening. Whether you love or hate him, the award-winning filmmaker speaks for the middle class against a broken political system, taking on issues ranging from gun violence to health care to foreign wars and a broken capitalist system.
“Roger and Me”
Michael Moore’s first documentary targets General Motors and its CEO, Roger Smith. In Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, GE closed several auto plants that cost 30,000 employees their jobs. In the film, Moore talks to former employees and attempts to discuss the matters with Smith. He makes his way into a shareholders’ meeting, but before he can air his grievances, Smith quickly shuts him down, ending the meeting. Although “Roger and Me” is tame compared to some of Moore’s later works, the complete disregard for the middle class shown by Smith in the name of a larger bottom line is discouraging.
“Bowling for Columbine”
After the high school massacre in Columbine, Colorado, Moore searches for the potential causes of the violence in his fifth major motion picture, which won an Academy Award for “Best Documentary Feature.” “Bowling” focuses on searching for a reason why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed their fellow students in April 1997, while opening up dialog on violence throughout the United States. Addressing the reasons the media tried to provide, such as music, movies and video games, Moore sarcastically suggests maybe the bowling class the pair attended that morning at school could also be a cause. The film provides stunning and dispiriting statistics on the overwhelming violence in America, calling into question the country’s self-described morality.
The highest grossing documentary of all times, “Fahrenheit 9/11” lambasts George W. Bush, the media and the war on terror. During the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, the film received a twenty-minute standing ovation, the longest given to a film to date. Leaving no political figure unscathed, “Fahrenheit 9/11” almost didn’t make it to the screen in the United States after Disney refused to allow Miramax to distribute the film. However, the film was released, allowing millions of viewers to question the idea of “free media” in the United States and the entirely dysfunctional political process which allowed Bush to be elected in the first place.
Originally, this 2007 documentary was intended to highlight the plight of the nation’s uninsured, but as filming progressed, the issue of substandard health care provided to Americans resulting in amounts of huge debt soon took center stage. The documentary also compares American health care to other industrialized nations where universal health care is available. Moore dispels some of the myths of government health care by interviewing doctors that practice in Europe as well as residents of other countries. In one scene, Moore makes an example of America’s health care industry by traveling with a group of 9/11 first responders who were denied government funded health care for their illnesses to Cuba. When the group arrives at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, Moore uses a megaphone to ask that the 9/11 victims receive the same medical treatment as the “evildoers” that are being detained there are offered.
Moore’s most recent film tackles Wall Street and the financial dealings that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. In “Capitalism,” Moore questions the basic tenets of capitalism, which trades its citizens’ health and safety for profit. No one is safe from Moore’s scrutiny as he notes the abysmal pay for airline pilots, the fact that Wal-Mart profits from dead employees and the “kids for cash” scandal that revealed itself in Pennsylvania in which judges received kickbacks for sending kids to juvenile facilities. The deregulation of Wall Street and how the US government helped facilitate the great recession can make for a gloomy 90 minutes, but it does make it easier to handle not being able to pay your credit card bill next month.