New Yorkers had their first chance to view Michael Moore’s latest, “Capitalism: A Love Story” last night at Alice Tully Hall, and the ever vocal filmmaker received a very warm reception from an audience that mostly seemed to agree with his assertion that capitalism, at least the form practiced in the United States, is ruinous and inherently flawed for the majority of Americans in the middle and working classes. “This movie gives voice to people who have no voice,” Moore said during an on stage interview with the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown. The Film Society of Lincoln Center hosted the U.S. debut of the film, which opens in New York and Los Angeles beginning Wednesday, September 23, with a further release on Friday. FSLC arranged the event ahead of its official opening of the New York Film Festival, which is also on Friday.
The film journeys from the personal (he interviews his father who worked at a now shuttered GM factory in Michigan) to the macroeconomic, with interviews of people in government agencies trying to explain how the bailouts worked – and more importantly for Moore – where all that cash went. He also profiles Americans in the process of being evicted from their homes, a tragic event that takes place every 7 1/2 seconds in this country, according to Moore. And he points his lens at other egregious spoils of unchecked capitalism gone awry, for example, for profit juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania which locked kids up for insane sentences (and higher profits), corporate giants such as Walmart taking out life insurance policies on their workers for windfall earnings on individual misfortunes, and even the plight of overworked and way underpaid commercial airline pilots.
“Investigative journalism no longer exists,” said Moore, who lambasted the decline of daily newspapers across America. “If it comes down to some guy in a baseball cap and high school education to do this, then we’re really in a tough spot.”
Moore said that he has a sizeable amount of footage devoted to declining print journalism in the U.S. that ultimately wasn’t used in the film and he blamed the closure of dailies on bad planning, misguided priorities and even support for Republican presidential nominees.
“Newspaper editors [mostly] supported Republican candidates in recent decades, and this is the party that wants to get rid of the Department of Education,” he said laughing. “This is the party that has turned us into a nation of semi-literate ignoramuses.”
When asked what about the project had surprised him the most, Moore said that requests of help from Republicans had shocked him. “I was surprised that Republicans were coming to me for help. These are people who clearly don’t share my politics, but they’re getting the crap kicked out of them and had nowhere else to turn,” he said referring to two families in his film.
Also surprising for viewers perhaps is the use of religion in “Capitalism.” Moore interviews a parish priest who calls capitalism “evil,” and even interviewed a Michigan bishop who also condemns the economic system practiced in the United States. Moore said during the on stage interview that his politics were rooted in his Catholic upbringing, and though he said he preferred to keep religion a personal matter, he felt compelled to make it part of this film.
“The Fox News network and others have gone to great lengths to try and define me as a godless left-winger, but the fact of the matter is, my beliefs are formed though my Catholicism.”
Another surprising and powerful moment in the film came from lost footage of President Franklin Roosevelt who made a speech in which he called for a “second Bill of Rights” that would guarantee among other things, decent housing, education and universal health care. Moore said he had heard the footage existed, but was told it was impossible to find. Roosevelt said it was necessary to guarantee a decent livelihood for all Americans, and apparently had insisted that his speech be taped, despite his declining health. The audience Monday night watched this footage intensely, and erupted in spontaneous applause afterward.
“This is what he wanted for America, and unfortunately he died soon after before the second Bill of Rights could be [pursued],” said Moore who appealed to the audience and those who will be watching his film when it opens beginning Friday via Overture Films to fight for new priorities. “I love this country, and I’m not going anywhere. My movies are acts of patriotism.”