Movies: Michael Moore

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

After 20 years of making films, Michael Moore has an Oscar to show for it (Bowling for Columbine), a secure spot on the list of highest-grossing documentaries ever (three of his films are in the top five) and the rare distinction of being a documentarian who's also a household name.

On the flip side, he's more polarizing than any other working filmmaker. Michael Bay only wishes he could inspire such heated emotions.

Last Friday, Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story opened on just four screens in the U.S., and it's already attracted major media coverage. Liberals have praised the film, which portrays the seamier side of corporate culture, as a call for power to the people.

Conservative detractors have suggested it's a threat to the American system of free enterprise. And industry reporters have noted, ironically, that Capitalism now holds the record for the highest per-screen gross of 2009.

On the eve of the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Moore sat down with reporters to share his thoughts on what drives his work, and where he thinks he's gone wrong.

On his new film:

"I really set out to make this film with an attitude of, if I weren't able to make another film after this, if suddenly I just got shut down and nobody would give me the money to make them, what would I put in that film knowing it might be my last for a while?

"That was sort of the trigger for a lot of what's in there, because it really is an extension of a lot of things I've been saying for 20 years."

On the art of political documentaries:

"The politics don't come first - I know that may seem strange for me to say that. The art of this comes first. If I'm unable to create a piece of cinema that people want to see, then whatever my politics are I've failed, because they're not going to understand what I have to say.

"I think, unfortunately, a lot of times people try to make political documentaries and put the politics first. The politics will follow if you make a good piece of cinema."

On making movie "polemics":

"First of all, 'polemics' is not a bad word. I wish we had more of a real discourse in this country, where people would essentially think out their positions and present them.

"I've said for a long time that these are cinematic op-ed pieces. They're my take on things. The facts in them are 100-percent correct. The opinions ... they're mine. So, I may be right or I may be wrong. I think I'm right, but I might not be right."

On opening up about his religious history in the new film:

"I think religion is a very private thing. You should just live it or shut up, so I debated for a while. I thought, most Americans are of this ilk. Their values are based around religion, and why not just be myself?

"Why let Fox News continue to fictionalize who Michael Moore is, when I've been nothing but somebody who loves this country, who still goes to mass, was an Eagle Scout, who is married to the same person that I met when I was 17?

"I would just kind of laugh at this character that Limbaugh and Fox News would create, but then after a while, you go, 'Whoa.' People are actually starting to believe this stuff. And perhaps I don't help that, standing on that [Oscars] stage and saying, 'Shame on you, Mr. Bush.' "

For more from Michael Moore, click to the Bad and the Beautiful blog.

"Capitalism: A Love Story"

Starts Friday