With his latest release, Capitalism: A Love Story, filmmaker and provocateur Michael Moore takes on the American financial system and the players who brought it to the brink of total collapse almost a year ago. In an email sent out just before the film’s nationwide opening, Moore wrote:
“What you are about to see in Capitalism is going to stun you. …I’m gonna show you the stuff the nightly news will rarely show you. Ever meet a pilot for American Airlines on food stamps because his pay’s been cut so low? Ever meet a judge who gets kickbacks for sending innocent kids to a private prison? Ever meet someone from the Wall Street Journal who bluntly states on camera that he doesn’t much care for democracy and that capitalism should be our only ruling concern? You’ll meet all these guys in Capitalism.”
In the film, Moore interviews Rep. Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, who offers her opinion on Big Finance’s overarching influence on the American political system. “Everything was being handled by the Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs,” she says, referring to former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. “They had Congress right where they wanted them. This was almost like an intelligence operation. The people [in Congress] really aren’t in charge.”
One filmgoer who saw the movie and posted a comment on The Los Angeles Times said the parts of the movie “that seemed to resonate most with the audience were the foreclosure segments, the workers’ strikes, the squatters in their own homes, the alarming information about the ‘dead peasants.’ In other words, things that affect ordinary people. That’s probably the reason everyone applauded at the end.”
But not everyone is a fan of Michael Moore, and not all of his critics are from the opposite side of the political spectrum. James Scurlock, who directed the documentary Maxed Out (a look into some of the more dubious practices of the credit industry), is particularly critical of Moore. Before the film’s release he wrote in Newsweek, “The prospect of Moore taking on the nation’s biggest and most dysfunctional industry fills me instead with a kind of dread, not just for the movie but for him personally. Not many details have been released about the angle his film will take but, from the way he describes it, there is a good chance not only that Moore will finally jump the shark but that he may have become that which he has derided so brilliantly over the years: a simplistic, didactic, one-note bully masquerading as the world’s sheriff.”
Scurlock continues, “Blaming ‘the wealthy’ (note to Moore: in a global sense, that means blaming most of America), individually or collectively, for our insane financial system or its inevitable bailout would be a distraction from a crisis that is far from over. Blaming the wealthy—or the greedy, whatever—misses the point.”
Moore, whose films have made him a millionaire, recently told CNSNews.com that “capitalism did nothing” for him. But according to Fortune magazine, his last three films—Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Sicko—have amassed more than $300 million in theaters worldwide, and Fahrenheit 9/11 is the top-grossing documentary of all time.
With Capitalism opening at a time when millions of Americans out of work or fearful of losing their jobs, Moore says he asked the studio “to offer a number of screenings in the nation’s hardest hit cities— the ones with the highest unemployment rates and highest foreclosure rates—where those who’ve lost their jobs or who are in foreclosure (or have already been evicted) may attend my film free of charge.” In another five cities, he made the film available to groups to raise money for their local organizations. In Chicago, the benefit took place at a theater on North Western Avenue and benefited the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America.
What has capitalism done to help or harm you? What is the future of the American capitalist system? Do you think Moore’s brand of filmmaking is instrumental in pushing for change? Do you think most Americans want to change our economic system, or do most feel content with the way the system works now? What forces do you think caused the current economic crisis? Can government defy or control the forces of the free market that capitalists defend? Do you believe in capitalism? If not, what’s a better alternative to capitalism?
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