Manufacturing Dissent (2007)
Written and directed by Rick Caine & Debbie Melnyk

In my review of Bowling For Columbine, I wrote that I'd love to make a movie called Michael & Me, which would attempt to hold Michael Moore accountable for all the half-truths and distortions he's used in his films – and for the massive amount of money and celebrity he's reaped from them. Lo and behold: Manufacturing Dissent is that movie.

While I wouldn't put myself in the anti-Moore camp (that is, the knee-jerk conservatives who loathe him mainly on the perception that he is liberal and powerful), I must admit a growing distaste for the guy and his work as time goes on. Though I'd still say Roger & Me is a great film, when re-watching it a couple years ago, I could not deny how transparent a lot of Moore's manipulativeness was right from the get-go.

Manufacturing Dissent is for people like me: those who do not reject Moore out of hand, yet who want to know more about how, specifically, he has misled the people who have made him famous. And while it's a pretty scathing indictment, it's also an admirably thorough and even-handed one. The filmmakers manage to use Moore's own "track-'em-down-and-hold-'em-accountable" approach on Moore himself without smacking of having too much of an agenda.

Moore's refusal to engage the filmmakers as they attempt to get an interview makes him look like a coward, but that's not even what probably bugs him the most about MD. An interview with Albert Maysles, which amounts to an almost wholecloth dismissal of Moore as a filmmaker, is stinging. And footage of close friends who categorize Moore, non-maliciously, as narcissistic and self-destructive, rings of a kind of personal truth that doesn't come through in Moore's own films.

By no means a stunt or a spoof or a mere expression of vitriol, Manufacturing Dissent is a thoughtful and meaningful exploration not just of Moore, but of the nature of documentary, and of Hollywood's embrace of those who espouse its politics. By the end you realize that while Moore has made himself more than enough money to be comfortable for a lifetime, he's ultimately denied himself what he wanted most: legitimacy.

Review by Denver Fritz