Michael Moore hopes documentary will inspire activism

by Julie Hinds

Detroit Free Press (MCT)

2 October 2009

cover art

Capitalism: A Love Story

Director: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore

(Overture Films)
US theatrical: 23 Sep 2009 (Limited release)

Review [23.Sep.2009]

DETROIT — Michael Moore isn’t known for making screen romances. But in “Capitalism: A Love Story,” he offers his take on how the American people have been jilted by a greedy economic system.

The famed Michigan filmmaker has been all over the media lately, popping up on “Larry King Live,” “The View” and Jay Leno’s prime-time show.

He’s shown clips that speak to anyone who’s worried about staying financially afloat — like the one where he drives an armored truck to a major Wall Street firm and announces he’s there to get the government bailout money back.

On-screen, Moore has a flair for confrontation and a knack for using comedy and tragedy to tell his stories.

But during a recent stop in Detroit, his voice was soft and tinged with sadness as he talked about the changes he’s seen in the American dream over the past few decades.

“This is what was held up to us by the people with the money who owned the factories and the banks. This is what they said to us: If you work hard and our company prospers, you will prosper,” he said. “Not a bad deal, huh?

“They’ve changed the American dream on us,” he said. “They pulled essentially a switcheroo here because now it’s you work hard, the company prospers, but you lose your job.”

In many ways, “Capitalism: A Love Story” is a culmination of 20 years of Moore being a thorn in the side of big money and big power. Throughout his career, he’s taken on subjects like General Motors (“Roger & Me”), the George W. Bush administration (“Fahrenheit 911”) and the health care system (“Sicko”) and achieved wide success — and an Oscar — for it.

On this particular day last month, Moore talked to reporters at the downtown Detroit Courtyard by Marriott. His movie was being screened the same day across the street at theaters in the Renaissance Center, the home of GM. (Moore wasn’t permitted to do press interviews there.)

Wearing his virtual uniform of a baseball cap and rumpled casual garb, he weighed in passionately on the current economic divide in the country.

“We need to interject democracy into this economy, into the economic decisions, into the way it’s structured and formed,” he said. “We have no say in this now. The richest 1 percent call all the shots.”

According to Moore, “Capitalism” isn’t a partisan film. “We go after Democrats and Republicans in this.”

And he pointed out that harsh realities like the tide of mortgage foreclosures know no party or class lines. “There’s a sense amongst a lot of people that we’re all in the same boat right now and we sink or swim together and that’s my attitude.”

“Capitalism: A Love Story” is dotted with references to Detroit and Michigan and includes some personal glimpses of Moore’s early years. In a poignant scene, he goes with his father to the site of the now-defunct spark plug plant in Flint where the elder Moore used to work.

Moore has said that he made this documentary as though it were his last, a sentiment that has fueled buzz on whether this really could be his swan song in the genre.

“It is not my last movie,” said Moore, who made a fictional comedy, “Canadian Bacon,” in 1995.

“Whether it’s my last documentary will be decided by the people. ... If I see, after this movie has been out, that it’s helped to inspire people to become active, where there’s a real movement afoot, like we saw with the movement that got Obama elected, then I’ll be right there with the next film.”

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