2007 SXSW SPOTLIGHT PREMIERES DOCUMENTARY FEATURE! Possibly one of the most controversial figures ever in the world of documentary filmmaking, the mere mention of “Bowling for Columbine” director Michael Moore is enough to spark heated debate among filmmakers and movie-watchers alike. Infamous for his in-your-face-style interviews with high-profile politicians and actors and his now well-known use of editing to re-write the truth, Moore is nonetheless renowned as a compelling and opinionated figure in independent film. Whether or not you agree with his political views or his tactics, chances are that if you’re reading this, you at least hold a pretty strong opinion.
In “Manufacturing Dissent,” filmmakers Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine set out to turn Moore’s own tactics against him. In what could best be described as a Michael Moore-style documentary about Michael Moore, Melnyk and Caine follow Moore as he travels the country to promote his film “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Ultimately seeking an interview with the controversial documentarian himself, Melnyk is flouted at every turn, filling in the holes left by Moore’s unavailability by interviewing his friends and colleagues.
For a documentary about a man who has evoked volumes in the way of conversation and debate, “Manufacturing Dissent” is a surprisingly simple film to sum up, and I can do it in just one word: boring. Mimicking Moore’s own shenanigans, Melnyk and her crew track down and accost Moore on his way to speaking events, forge credentials to sneak their way into political rallies, and surreptitiously leave their cameras on to record sound when their fake credentials are exposed and security guards kick them out of the building. Like Moore himself, Melnyk inserts herself into the documentary at every turn, getting into the faces of Moore’s security crew and colleagues.
However, the big difference here is that unlike Michael Moore, Melnyk is the opposite of compelling. Soft-spoken, meek, and uninteresting in every sense of the world, she really detracts from the documentary. Hell, my 94-year-old grandmother has more to say about Michael Moore than this woman does, and she says it in a much more interesting and debate-inspiring way. And even though a huge portion of the film hinges on the fact that Melnyk and her crew are unable to get an interview with Moore himself, when he finally gives them a twenty-minute interview towards the end of the film, they edit all but about a minute of it out.
I’m not going to get into my personal opinions of Moore’s political agenda, but I will say this: whether or not I agree with him and what he does, at the very least, I enjoy watching a Michael Moore film. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for this documentary. Simply put, “Manufacturing Dissent” seeks to criticize Michael Moore’s documentary tactics, while simultaneously using those same tactics unsuccessfully in the creation of the film…