News flash: With each film, Michael Moore serves himself as much as any cause. He’s not from Flint, Michigan, but—gasp!—the Flint suburb of Davison. He can be a petty son of a bitch, and may owe back pay to music critic Dave Marsh from their days at The Flint Voice. He fudged the chronology of Roger & Me (1989), and made it look as though General Motors CEO Roger Smith wouldn’t talk to him, when in fact they had spoken twice.
These and other musty factoids are dredged up by the Canadian documentary Manufacturing Dissent, which aims to debunk what it takes for granted as Moore’s untarnished reputation. But a Moore exposé really ought to come across as less naive than, for instance, Moore. Even those sympathetic to the Sicko director’s politics frequently take issue with his methods. And for all his simplifications, he’s capable of drawing attention to an issue in a way that few filmmakers can. He deserves a sharper takedown than this cheeky, if balanced, dig.
To be sure, Melnyk hits pay dirt when she and her film crew are escorted away from a speech on Moore’s Slacker Uprising tour. (They aren’t the right kind of journalists, apparently—an argument that blows holes in Moore’s defense of his recent trip to Cuba.) And there’s more than a whiff of hypocrisy in the way that Moore, Roger Smith–like, repeatedly rebuffs Melnyk’s requests for interviews. Judging from Dissent, she’s a much friendlier filmmaker than he is.