Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk
Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 13 March 2007
Source 35mm print
Michael Moore is the most successful documentary filmmaker in history, and he has taken quantifiable liberties in each of his films: in Roger & Me, he omitted an interview with Roger Smith, former CEO of General Motors; his apprehending a gun in exchange for activating a bank account was staged (and incurred weeks of preproduction so the contrivance would seem authentic) in Bowling for Columbine; and much of the footage in Fahrenheit 9/11 depicting an insensitive George Bush is shown wildly out of context.
Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk’s film is resolute in reinforcing Moore’s illegitimacies as a documentary filmmaker. They do so with precisely the same agenda, but without the same tactics—their cautious ambushes (they trail Moore on his well-attended lectures on college campuses) pervade the film with a peculiar irony. Moore is such a domineering presence in his films he seems capable of conjuring controversy at every turn; co-director Melnyk, as the emcee herein, is totally passive. She comes face-to-face with Moore at several instances, and in each seems a bit frenzied and speechless, her questions faltering, and Moore’s excuses to leave imminent.
Manufacturing Dissent was preceded by an informal poll: who loves him and his films, and who does not—the responses were equally enthusiastic and divided. An indifferent responder, I happen to admire Moore’s films. Despite their questionable agendas (as well as Moore’s caustic persona), I find them consistently entertaining—this is, if you can overlook their objectionable legitimacy as documentaries. Caine and Melnyk’s film is intent in questioning such legitimacies, which it does well; it’s just as propagandistic as a Michael Moore film, but not as entertaining.