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SXSW: “Manufacturing Dissent.”

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Moore at the Oscars.
The most interesting part of the premiere of the querulous doc "Manufacturing Dissent," from Toronto-based filmmakers Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk, was the unusually aggressive Q&A that followed the screening. As heralded in the New York Times in late February, the good-natured Canadians were admirers of their subject, Michael Moore, when they chose him to be the topic of their fourth film, but found him to both be an intractable subject and one with troubling inconsistencies in his public persona and outright falsehoods in his work. Not a popular subject for a left-leaning city (even though the filmmakers themselves are politically liberal), but audience members seemed less put out by the thesis than the approach; the film is, in form, more loyal to its subject than it may have intended. "Manufacturing Dissent" is a documentary in true Moore fashion, narrated by and sometimes featuring Melnyk, augmenting its argument with damning news footage and a chorus of talking head interviews, and landing a few solid blows amidst plenty of cheap shots.

Melnyk and Caine don’t have Moore’s undeniable gift for the entertaining polemic, as well as his less appreciated ability to thread his arguments into a narrative, and "Manufacturing Dissent" wobbles between unflattering unauthorized profile and closer chronological look at the "Fahrenheit 9/11" years. There are plenty of provocative ideas floated: Moore exaggerated his working class hero image (the filmmakers visit the Flint suburb in which he grew up, paying a visit to a fair in the town and talking to a few kids, who deem it "rich"); Moore manipulated his footage (the "Roger & Me" moment in which his mike is cut off at the GW stockholders meeting was apparently faked at another theater); Moore lies (he actually did get an opportunity to question Roger Smith, but left the footage on the cutting room floor and asked others to forget it happened); Moore wants fame and fortune (we get a shot of his expensive house). There are also plenty of strange pettinesses brought up as evidence of…what? Moore’s 80s Michigan alt-weekly didn’t pay the $10 a month it owed for a syndicated rock column! Moore didn’t want to admit to a film critic on Canadian television that his sole narrative effort, "Canadian Bacon," was not very good! When Moore made the leap from his local alt-weekly to the editor-in-chief position at national magazine Mother Jones, he didn’t have enough experience to pull it off!

These moments just muddy an already unclear moral. The slippages and falsehoods amongst Moore’s films are unfortunate, but not a stunning revelation in these days of reality show techniques. That Moore’s films are manipulative is not a new idea either — back in 1989, when "Roger & Me" made its US premiere at the New York Film Festival, Vincent Canby observed, gleefully, that "Mr. Moore makes no attempt to be fair." We can’t speak for everyone, but we’ve always regarded Moore’s work as a series of pragmatically entertaining and blatantly one-sided attempts to inflame a passive liberal population. He may be a blowhard, he may be a provocateur, but we don’t think he ever made the claim for being a practitioner of journalistic remove.

As for Moore’s desires for recognition and cash money, well, we also didn’t expect him to be Left Wing Jesus, though maybe others did. As one audience member asked, how are the filmmakers of "Manufacturing Dissent," with its prime marketing hook and built-in audience of Moore haters, any different?

Throughout "Manufacturing Dissent," the filmmakers attempt several times to secure, in person, an interview with Moore, eventually printing out fake business cards to get press access during the 2004 Slacker Uprising tour, and getting thrown out, filming all the while. It’s not the first such twist on "Roger & Me"; Michael Wilson shaped his 2004 documentary "Michael Moore Hates America" around the same idea. The incidents don’t add up to much more than one wondering, well, why the hell would you grant an interview to someone who’s blatantly trying to broadside you? Moore, and Wilson, for that matter, understood that that was the joke.

"Manufacturing Dissent" currently has no US distribution.

+ "Manufacturing Dissent" (SXSW)
+ "Manufacturing Dissent" (IMDb)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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