Social Documentaries and their Stars…

If you were to ask anyone (who is not currently studying documentary) to name any documentary filmmaker, there is a really good chance that the name Michael Moore would be in the top 5.

Regardless of personal politics, Michael Moore’s impact on the documentary form cannot be denied. The majority of his documentaries have had theatrical releases, which have lead to successful runs for other documentary films in the last 25 years. Many also point to his style of filmmaker – a naïve guy simply asking questions to create a self reflexive documentary – as unique. This is not necessarily true. There have been a number of filmmakers who have placed themselves in this role (Michael Rubbo in Waiting for Fidel and Nick Bloomfield in his numerous films beginning in the 1980s.)

This style is used often in social documentaries that examine a problem or struggle of a particular group of people. By placing themselves into their films, these filmmakers invite their audience one the journey of discovery. The audience discovers things at the same time as the filmmaker. The filmmaker can comment on them (often applying their own politics to the interpretation) and move on. The goal is the influence the audience by revealing the “truths” that are discovered.

There is something that is convincing about it, but is there some kind of manipulation occurring?

Discussion Starter: Discuss the more convincing scenes in Roger and Me. Comment on why they are convincing in your eyes. Next discuss the scenes that appear manipulated. Why are they manipulative in your eyes?