Sunday, April 04, 2004

A Night With Michael Moore: Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 4/3/04

Here’s my report of seeing Michael Moore speak last night at the Full Frame Documentary Film Fest that was held in Durham over the last several days: 

A Night With Michael Moore: April 3rd, 2004

“I’d like to share with you the rest of my Oscar speech…” Michael Moore offered to his rapt audience shortly after his introduction by noted documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker.

The Full Frame crowd responded in applause and laughter. It seems that nobody was unaware of Moore’s controversial comments upon winning the Best Documentary Academy Award for “Bowling For Columbine.”

He elaborated on his now famous statement that “we live in fictitious times, with a fictitious president who was elected with fictitious election results and we’re fighting a war for fictitious reasons.”

Since this happened a year ago Moore has told this story countless times. No doubt that many in the audience had already heard his tale of his being publicly criticized and even threatened for what was being labeled a vicious anti-Bush rant but it didn’t matter to this crowd. My family who attended with me beforehand all voiced concern about detractors protesting the event and disrupting the evening. I assured them that that was extremely doubtful, because Moore would be preaching to the choir.

And he definitely was. Even mild remarks and slight comical gestures got rousing response. It also didn’t matter that the event was a pretty ramshackle affair. Lights would dim unexpectedly cutting off Moore to start a film clip and despite the presence of microphones placed in the aisles questions were randomly shouted out with no sense of a structured Q & A forum.

A moderator might have been a good idea. But again none of this really mattered since the audience ate it all up anyway. Clips from Moore’s TV shows and movies were applauded with such enthusiasm you would have thought they were classic rock songs. That was the spectacle though, the real heart of the evening came from the communal feeling among us all that through all the jokes and deflating of political egos and policies there was a genuine belief that we can really change things.

Moore made a big point out of encouraging everyone not only to vote but to travel to “swing-states” and help to transport others to the polls. Moore wanted to make explicit the difference between “us and them.”

“Us” was not to be confused with what he called “liberal poseurs,” but what he mostly just referred to as “our side” vs. the conservatives. The word liberal has become a dirty word because they are wimps with no real drive he explained. “What I admire about the other side is that they have the courage of their convictions. They are unyielding. They are up at the crack of dawn trying to figure who to screw next.” Moore raised his voice, “our side, we never see the crack of dawn! The only time we see the crack of dawn is when we’ve been up all night!” The laughter of familiarity filled the room.

Moore continued with this diatribe even imitating weak liberals whining “‘where do you want to go eat tonight?’ ‘I don’t know, where do you want to go?’ - ‘let’s get some pizza’ ‘no we had pizza last night.’ You know the conservative they’re like ‘get in the car we’re going to Sizzler! Red meat!’”

All in all it was a very entertaining evening. It was great to see clips from Moore’s little seen Bravo show The Awful Truth (available on DVD) being shown on a big screen and a couple of people in the audience did actually make their way to the microphones but not to engage in political discourse but to simply thank Moore for the job he’s doing.

One young woman was on the verge of tears as she told of Columbine-style shootings happening where she went to school and expressed her intense appreciation for Moore asking the question “why?” Throughout the night Moore gave some of his personal rules of filmmaking and made us all excited about his upcoming film project “Fahrenheit 911” to be released on the July 4th weekend with the DVD video release slated for just weeks before the Presidential election in November.

Obviously he’s got a plan in place and it was indeed inspiring to have somebody encourage others to take a stand and try to make a difference. Now if we could only get up and get to it at the crack of dawn – that would be a start.

More later...

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