Michael Moore:Filmmakers not Documentarians

Last week Michael Moore, at the Toronto International Film Festival Doc Conference, 25 years after his “Roger and me” (photo) was released, presented 13 rules for making documentary films. A manifesto. He stressed that documentary filmmakers should not be called documentarians but filmmakers, and ”Also, I don’t want people leaving the theater depressed after my movies. I want them angry. Depressed is a passive emotion. Anger is active. Anger will mean that maybe 5 percent, 10 percent of that audience will get up and say, “I gotta do something. I’m going to tell others about this. I’m going to go look up more about this on the Internet. I’m gonna join a group and fight this!””

His full speech is to be found on Indiewire, link below, where you will also find colleague, documentarian, sorry filmmaker Jo Berlinger’s response to Moore, as thoughtful and analytical as Moore’s contribution is entertaining and provocative. Other filmmakers are also asked to comment in the fine IndieWire articles. A long quote from Berlinger:

“Not calling ourselves “documentarians” is a very old argument that ignores the amazing expansion of the form and the pushing of boundaries that

Michael himself was huge part of ushering in. When we launched “Brother’s Keeper” at Sundance in 1992, we made it part of our press strategy to call it a “nonfiction feature film” and to avoid the word “documentary” because of the “castor oil” baggage of the word — we certainly weren’t the first and obviously not the last to make a conscious effort to not only avoid the “D” word, but to make an issue of how we were different from traditional (i.e., “boring”) documentaries… that was 23 years ago.

But, since the late 1980’s through the 1990’s generally beginning with with “The Thin Blue Line” (by using highly stylized re-creations), “Roger & Me” (by using humor and making the filmmaker an on-screen personality) and “Paris is Burning” (taking us into a world documentaries didn’t normally dare to go) and throughout the 1990’s and beyond, there has been an amazing explosion in the volume and creativity of the form, pushing the documentary into new places of cinematic expression and techniques, from artfully shot re-creations, to using documentary not just to “educate,” but also ambiguous human character portraits to, yes, the modern day advocacy film…”

http://www.indiewire.com/article/joe-berlinger-on-michael-moore-and-the-changing-market-for-documentaries-20140915

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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