Michael Moore gets the Michael Moore treatment in a new documentary created by a fellow Michigan resident. Accountant turned filmmaker Kevin Leffler isn’t a dyed in the wool Republican trying to score cheap shots off the liberal gadfly. He’s just a regular Midwesterner who knew the guy being trumped up in the press as the straight talking Everyman wasn’t the real deal.
Leffler grew up in the same part of Michigan as Moore, attending the same Catholic Church and even working together on a local youth hotline. So when Leffler calls out Moore, it means something.
“Shooting Michael Moore” lets Leffler deconstruct the Moore myth. It’s a project with a tiny budget and little Hollywood razzmatazz – Leffler is a CPA and college professor, not a slick documentarian.
But he digs deep enough into Moore’s activities to reveal a more complicated, and damning portrait of the Oscar winner.
Leffler starts at the beginning, describing his own humble roots and inserting himself into the narrative. His voice sounds like Moore’s, a reedy, sing-song cadence that’s oddly appropriate for the task at hand. The CPA even wears a ball cap a la Mike.
Moore promised at the start of his career to help Flint, Mich. rebound from the job losses tallied in his 1989 debut “Roger & Me.”
But Moore treated those who worked on that film poorly, and eventually set up a movie office in the Big Apple instead. This “Everyman” rails against white people in his books and owns a $1.8 million home in Michigan (in a town bereft of African-Americans) as well as a posh Manhattan dwelling complete with security personnel. And he doesn’t want to be interviewed by the likes of Leffler, even though the CPA hounds him down, “Roger & Me” style, for much of the movie.
Moore routinely uses tax loopholes to pay less to the federal government, something Leffler alleges using slow pans of the director’s tax documents as proof. He also invests heavily, via a foundation, in many of the evil corporations he assaults in his films.
Big Oil. Big Pharma.
Moore’s documentaries are built on equally dodgy foundations. Leffler interviews some of the people featured in Moore’s movies, and their families members too.
Turns out Moore’s camera crews often deceive their subjects to trick them into appearing in his propaganda films. It’s the same mischief pulled by the makers of “Borat,” but when you’re dealing with Marines putting their lives on the line in Iraq, the stakes are much higher.
Parts of “Moore” are drier than a prairie, befitting perhaps Leffler’s CPA credentials. And when the film attempts humor it doesn’t always succeed. Having someone dress up as a mini Michael Moore to show how he cheated as a Boy Scout years ago seem more petty than riotous.
But when Leffler gets serious, the documentary finds its focus.
That’s certainly the case when Leffler debunks the mythos behind “Sicko,” Moore’s attack on the U.S. health care system and glorification of those run in Great Britain – and Cuba.
“Moore” uses a series of news snippets to show England’s health care system is far from perfect. In fact, it sounds downright broken. It isn’t Moore’s biggest sin of omission in the film.
“The whitewash Mike does of the British health care system is nothing compared to the downright fabrication of glory he heaps on the Cuban system,” Leffler says in the film.
Leffler interviews Cuban doctors with firsthand experience working in the Communist country’s medical units. They describe a two-tiered system in which government officials and cash-waving tourists get quality care and regular Cubans get … something far, far less.
He uses a hidden camera to capture some horrifying images from a Cuban hospital, a dilapidated building with blood stained beds and other images usually reserved for a horror movie.
“Sicko,” Leffler says, was propaganda created along with former President Fidel Castro’s help, he alleges. Yet the film wasn’t shown in Cuba.
Leffler’s sources say the Cuban people would see right through the charade.
Powerful stuff, and something audiences wouldn’t expect from a CPA turned filmmaker.
“Shooting Michael Moore” isn’t the first documentary assailing Moore’s carefully calculated persona. But the personal connection between Leffler and his subject, combined with the harrowing footage snuck out of Cuba, makes this the one Moore bashing doc to see.
One of Moore’s supporters argued recently that the film’s title is a call to arms, an attempt by Leffler to incite people to violence against the filmmaker. The argument rings hollow in an age when artists routinely create works far more likely to create violence, like a feature length film depicting the death of a sitting president.
It’s understandable that Moore’s proponents would prefer to focus on drummed up controversies than addressing the meat of Leffler’s film.