Michael Moore Giving Up Documentary Filmmaking?


Over the past twenty years, Michael Moore dominated the world of documentary filmmaking like no one has before. In addition to directing the highest grossing doc of all time (Fahrenheit 9/11), three more of his films rank in the top 15 for non-fiction releases at the box office. This October, his sixth major documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, will hit theatres… and apparently, it could be his last.

In a recent interview with The Detroit News to promote his annual Traverse City Film Festival, Moore revealed that he has been working on a couple of screenplays and that he is feeling the need get back into fictional storytelling:

“While I’ve been making this film I’ve been thinking that maybe this will be my last documentary. Or maybe for a while… I have been working on two screenplays over the last couple of years. One’s a comedy, one’s a mystery, and I really want to do this.”

This is where all the Michael Moore haters come out and say that he’s already been peddling fiction for years. In all seriousness, many will remember that he wrote and directed the John Candy comedy Canadian Bacon back in 1995, which wasn’t all that well-received, but I could certainly seem him doing another comedy with a political edge. (The mystery sounds a bit odd though.) Perhaps Moore is sensing that his credibility as a documentary filmmaker is crumbling, or it could be that he has accomplished everything he wanted to in that realm, and he’s looking for a new challenge. Would you like to see Michael Moore take a break from documentaries for a while? What about permanently?

  • rick

    all i’m going to say is I really really HATE this man

  • BigHungry

    I thought he was a fictional director already?

  • Damndirtyape

    >> Hypocrite Michael Moore Giving Up Propaganda Filmmaking?

    – fixed

  • Goon

    predictable comment 4

  • Hugo Van Nor

    Propaganda. That’s how many describe the W. Bush era.

  • Damndirtyape

    Propaganda. That’s how I would describe the “Obama” era so far..

  • Henrik

    I don’t hate Michael Moore, but I do find him irrelevant. I’m pretty sure he would not be offended if you called him a propaganda filmmaker, nor would any fan of his films. A fan of his politics might be offended. Michael Moore won the Palme D’Or for Fahrenheit 9/11. I think this is only possible because Quentin Tarantino was head of the jury that year, and seing as he loves genre movies, somehow was able to convince people, that this was the greatest propaganda picture the world had seen since world war 2. Personally, I thought it was quite boring, and I didn’t make it past the first 20 minutes of Sicko, it seemed to be a childrens movie, and I was bored again.

    He is no more fictional than any other documentary filmmaker out there though, when you get right down to it. Unless you want to talk about degrees of fiction, and some sort of percentage-scale that you can justify, it’s safe to assume all is fiction, some fiction is just about real persons.

  • So would fictional filmmaking make him relevant again?

    Fahrenheit 9/11 clearly won the Palme D’Or strictly for its message rather than its technique. I’m okay with that.

  • Damndirtyape

    He’s already a fictional filmmaker.

    The man makes no absolutely no effort to be intellectually honest at all in his propaganda. Propaganda which is contrived, edited, and filmed all with a single goal in mind – to push his ideology. It’s just one step above the Anti-Jewish Nazi party films from the 30’s.

    That, in and of itself, is not the worst part – it’s that he passes his work off as a “documentary” which carries with it implications of some degree of truthfulness, honesty, and objectivity. At least the term does for me.

    If Moore’s work was billed as “personal artistic opinion” then it might not bother me as much. Sure, every creative work out there is influenced by the sensibilities and views of the creator. But Moore’s methods are far past being anything but pure shit.

    An example of a film that is honest and asks real questions without seeping propaganda at every pore is Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Walking away from that film you don’t feel as if the makers were out to indoctrinate you in any way, unlike Moore’s work.

    And FYI my hatred of the man has nothing to do with his politics. I’m no fan of Bush or the Iraq war. I’m an atheist and hated Religulous because I think Maher did a lot of the same shit as Moore in the way they construct their “case”

  • I’m sure a lot of people would agree with you Damndirtyape, I guess that’s why I’m asking if Moore’s potential choice to go the fictional route would change your opinion. Then there would not be any misunderstandings about whether or not he has an obligation to be truthful or objective and it could indeed be passed off as “personal artistic opinion”.

    Of course, whether or not his films would continue to be political remains to be seen.

  • Rusty James

    Ape, what about the school of thought that says that all film is lies. Werner Herzog isn’t afraid to make things up in his docs and he’s one of the most acclaimed documentarians in the world.

    “documentary” does not mean journalism. It’s still an art form. And even in journalism there’s such a thing as an editorial.

    This conservative effort to brand Moore’s satirical documentaries as some betrayal of the medium is uninformed.

  • Rusty James

    And I still haven’t seen Moore’s first foray into fictional film making Canadian Bacon.

  • Henrik

    “Fahrenheit 9/11 clearly won the Palme D’Or strictly for its message rather than its technique.”

    Oh, I disagree completely, but it’s all conjecture made up in my head, based around Tarantino being the head of the jury. I definitely think it’s because it was a dedicated genre movie, in a genre that is taboo, and had not been seen in wide release all over the world for 60 years.

    “It’s just one step above the Anti-Jewish Nazi party films from the 30’s.”

    How is it above it? I personally find it nowhere near as compelling.

    “So would fictional filmmaking make him relevant again?”

    It would depend on the movie I guess.

  • Goon

    oh god i dont see this going anywhere good.

    but anyways, I’d say Bigger Stronger Faster and RIP: A Remix Manifesto are as much an op-ed as any of Moore’s films, they have their own point of view and they make their own case, and I appreciate that all of them despite their own agendas are asking a lot of questions.

    I agree with Rusty’s comment, and would also point at Orson Welles “F For Fake” as an examination into this. It seems people only want to make these statements about documentaries when they actually vehemently disagree with the slant. Expelled to me is a film that has it very very wrong, but it’s a documentary. Many 9/11 conspiracy theory videos, which I tend to hate, count to me.

    Finally, as I tend to say every time this happens, Moore is a guy who makes a movie every couple years, and you have to pay to be exposed to his views. Whereas countless other wingnuts of all persuasions, but I would say people like Glenn Beck are much more extreme than someone like Moore, have daily TV shows to spout their views at length. There seems to be some effort to point at Moore as the only person out there with some slanted view, when he’s just a drop in a massive bucket. So I wonder if people are mad at his ideas so much as they’re mad that he does it with such success, financially and/or critically. I think it drives people mad that he’s actually quite a good filmmaker.

  • Henrik

    “oh god i dont see this going anywhere good.”

    Well, doing this certainly doesn’t help matters. We are all perfectly capable of discussing this without degenerating, or at least we are untill proven otherwise.

    I loved Bigger, Stronger, Faster. I think it’s way better than Michael Moores films, the only one of which I’ve liked was Bowling for Columbine, because it had a comedic slant, started off light etc. It didn’t start with sob stories about gun accidents, and Michael Moores condescending narration guiding the audience through it, like Sicko. It was more entertaining than teaching, at least that’s how I saw it. Fahrenheit 9/11 I just found boring as shit. I could not believe it was actually a movie, like 30 minutes on George Bush’s bad math in oil companies etc. YAWN. I don’t really think he’s quite a good filmmaker, but I do think he’s an auteur and stands out.

  • Goon

    “We are all perfectly capable of discussing this without degenerating, or at least we are untill proven otherwise.”

    I hope so, its just recent historical precedent makes me wary. Please prove me wrong.

    One other thing I forgot to mention is that nobody ever seems to give credit that Moore has a long record of also going after Democrats, in both his movies and the TV show. Everyone seems to forget that one of the highlight tsk tsks of Sicko was against Hillary, or the hard time he gave Clinton in the 90s, that he attacked Gore in 2000 and was with Nader instead, referring to the other two as “Gush and Bore”.

    I’ll agree with anyone that F911 is his weakest work, but I appreciate it overall as a time capsule of just how mean that 2004 election time was, and that the footage he got from Lipscomb and from within Iraq was as effective as anything else I’ve seen in any first rate doc.

  • Goon

    BTW, while I heard that the Manufacturing Dissent doc was good, most of the countless anti-Moore docs and books get passed around as if they’re objective, when they’re just as biased if not more so than Moore’s movies, and don’t even have the nerve to give an alternate take on the topic or be as upfront with their bias as Moore is. To me thats far more intellectually dishonest.

    One of the first major attacks on Moore was written by David T. Hardy, who made the ‘bowling for truth’ site. That screed was not only full of major errors of fact of what is and isn’t in the movie, but more importantly hides the fact that Hardy was a gun lobbyist and president of several gun groups and NRA chapters. That guy did everything he could on his sites to cover up that he also had a slant or agenda. It’s stuff like that which makes me stand up for Moore even if he deserves slack for a lot of things. When everyone is throwing rocks, it means some of the rock throwers are going to start getting away with even bigger deceptions.

  • Goon

    Henrik, I guess to better explain my wariness:

    My problem with so many Moore threads is that so rarely it ends up being some reasonable middle ground argument of his virtues and faults, you get the people who are ideologically opposed to him attacking him, and you get people who are ideologically agreeable with him vehemently defending him, and in the end you can point each other out and its just a mess, even though I know for certain that reasonable common ground argument is out there. I’m projecting all these past experiences onto this thread I guess.

  • Henrik

    Well, I ideologically agree with him, but still find his movies boring and irrelevant.

    I can see what you mean though, it’s also just a case of everything having been said before.

  • Goon

    Exactly, every Moore thread is kind of a stock argument until he actually does something again. I don’t think there’ll be anything fresh to say about Moore until the movie actually comes out, and even then I wonder if other than the situations being new, the disagreeable reactions to the message wont be much different than the ones to his books or The Big One.