Directors rarely have any input into the decision as to when a movie will be released. That side of the business is so arcane, you’d need a degree from Hogwarts to work in film distribution. If the producers and directors behind Manufacturing Dissent had their way, they may have opted to delay the release of their not-so-flattering look at the documentary filmmaker, Michael Moore. In case you haven’t noticed, Sicko, his latestand quite possible bestfilm is out there right now and it`s a Moore tour de force. It will have you laughing one moment, crying the next, and shaking your head in disbelief for much of his one-sided examination of the American health care system. But this review isn’t about Sicko. It’s about the film that casts doubt on every film Moore has ever made.
Manufacturing Dissent is a highly polished piece of filmmaking. It comes from the same team that gave us Citizen Black. With his lordship`s U.S. trial coming to a close and getting tons of media coverage, maybe the distribution wizards should have re-released that film now.
Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine have crafted a really fine film. Manufacturing Dissent uses the standard bag of tricks all documentarians use: archival footage combined with footage shot just for this production, “talking head” interviews with people who either know Moore and like him, or know him and don’t like him, and people who don’t know him but, thanks to his films, have made up their minds one way or the other. Melnyk and Caine also exhibit one of the absolute necessities all documentary filmmakers must possess: tenacity.
In an echo of Moore`s film, Roger & Me, where he tried repeatedly to get an interview with the head of General Motors, Melnyk and Caine set out to interview Moore, who goes from being simply distant and possibly not interested to someone we learn to be wary of. Their attempt to nail down a specific date to have a “sit-down” interview is the red thread that holds the film together. Between one interview request rejection after another, we hear from people who know Michael Moore and offer varying opinions. But there is a lurking danger here if you’re a fan of the American producer and director. Manufacturing Dissent begins at the beginning, before Moore became a filmmaker, to unravel who he was and what he has become. From an opening sequence where Moore accepts his Academy Award, we descend toward a scene whereperhaps unknown to Moore himselfhis minions, including his sister, have the Canadian filmmakers tossed out of an event they’re videotaping. Manufacturing Dissent achieves its ultimate goal of showing that a man who champions the concept of “the truth” has been playing fast and loose with it for quite some time.
You should be able to walk away from any good documentary having learned something new about the subject. In this case you learn things about Michael Moore that shake your belief in him and in everything he has done. Quite possibly, we also learn that he has gone beyond reviving the documentary as a viable film form to creating a new kind of documentary: a film that is part truth, but also part fiction, a film that is craftedin fact, manufacturedto reflect a single vision of the truth no matter how distorted that vision may be.