After an initial report in Variety highlighting the filmmaker (and fellow Flint, MI escapee) Michael Moore’s low profile of late, everyone from a curious Cinematical to a grumpy Anthony Kaufman wants to know where Michael Moore has gone. Even the bag of rocks known as moorewatch.com (oh, I will never link, my friends) has noticed his absence and, in a classic twist, faces closure as health care costs have escalated for the site’s operator. Irony so delicious, one needs no garnish.
Anyway, I am happy to be able to report that Michael is alive and well, and continuing to support our home town. Last Thursday, April 20th, Moore was home in Flint, MI addressing the staff of Flint’s alternative monthly newspaper, The Uncommon Sense (Full disclosure: I write the film column for the paper). As some of you may or may not know, Michael published his own alternative newspaper in Flint from 1976-1986, The Flint Voice, which soon became The Michigan Voice. In 1986, after a decade of work on The Voice, he was appointed to be the editor of Mother Jones magazine and left Flint for San Francisco. Flint was without an alternative paper for about 18 years, until my dear friend Matt Zacks picked up the mantle and began publishing his own alternative paper, The Uncommon Sense. Made up primarily of volunteer writers and editors (myself included), the paper has been a big hit in the community, giving voice to ideas and individuals that otherwise would have no outlet. It is a truly grassroots effort, and Matt deserves all the credit in the world for sustaining the paper. I would never want to put words in his mouth, but I think Michael Moore recognizes that the legacy that he created with The Michigan Voice has had a profund impact on The Uncommon Sense and he was truly generous to meet with the staff this past week and help the group strategize and stay motivated to continue on in the face of worsening conditions in the city. Unfortunately, I could not be there as I was wrapping up my work on the Sarasota Film Festival, but by all accounts it was a truly inspirational evening.
Thursday, April 20th, 2006: Matt Zacks and Michael Moore in the offices of The Uncommon Sense.
I have long been a defender of both Moore the man and his films, so it is no surprise to me that all of these criticisms of Moore are surfacing now. Anthony Kaufman’s implication that Moore is lazy and unkempt (‘his minions working overtime to finish his own doc’ while he is ‘attending movies…wearing his trademark sweats’) is keeping in line with the long-standing tradition of confusing a man one doesn’t even know with one’s own opinions about his appearance. Fahrenheit 9/11 is less than two years old and Bowling For Columbine (which we all remember was not included in the New York Film Festival’s lineup*) is still a great and unfortunately very relevant movie. Its only been two years; go bust Victor Erice’s chops if you’re looking for someone who clearly has no deadline. Look, if you don’t know what good work someone is doing, maybe lay off the judgements until you know what’s what. Michael Moore was there, supporting a grassroots effort in his home town; no film crews, no ‘self-promotion’– just helping out. Sorry, haters.
Thursday, April 20th, 2006: Michael Moore addresses the team from The Uncommon Sense.
*So much for missing his ‘fall film festival deadline’. American festivals rarely show his films and let’s be honest; showing Sicko to Canadian audiences who enjoy free state sponsored health care just won’t carry the same impact were the film to play Toronto. More on the NYFF documentary film issues here.