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Though Michael Moore has accrued some severe criticisms from several quarters – not least from self-appointed harbinger of truth and professional bully Christopher Hitchens – it can’t be denied that the award-winning documentary maker raises some uncomfortable points about modern-day USA.
Sure, Moore is heavy-handed with his partisanship against the Bush administration; sure, he uses provocative images and misleading statements from time to time; sure, his point of view is decidedly skewed. For all that, he does not falsify and he does not fabricate. Indeed, Moore has even published supporting evidence on his own website, intended to rebut the rebuttals.
If you love peeking behind the curtain through the medium of films like ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’, Moore has a whole back catalogue dedicated to satiating such thirsts. Rather than simply listing his canon, however, I’ve chosen ten more films which fall into a similar vein for those keen to look beyond the much-maligned movie-maker.
‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ might have come under fire for its sensationalist and one-sided approach to making a documentary, but compared to ‘Zeitgeist’, it looks positively pedestrian. In this movie (the first of a trilogy), the filmmaker aspires to uncover a number of different conspiracies involving Christianity, the September 11th attacks, and the Federal Reserve banking system of the USA. Its sprawling style makes it somewhat incoherent and implausible, akin to the ramblings of a soapbox preacher predicting the end of the world.
In a similar vein to the ‘Zeitgeist’ series, ‘Fiat Empire’ attempts to uncover the disturbing links between the banking system in the United States, the government, and corporate media. Whilst it does raise many valid points, the arguments are often presented clumsily and it comes off feeling a little too propagandistic in the end.
As the name suggests, ‘Terrorstorm’ is an attempt to demonstrate how governmental organisations have used terror as a weapon against their own people for decades. Selecting specific events throughout history, the film suggests that these were orchestrated by the supposed victims in order to justify war, incite fear in the populace, and generate economic profit.
Concerned about an offer from a gas company to lease his land for $100,000, filmmaker Josh Fox delves into the potential ramifications of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and pours cold water on the growing enthusiasm for the industry. Like Moore, his use of striking images has been met with strong criticism and has been the subject of a cluster of counterclaim movies.
Through interviewing former DEA agents and drug runners, ‘American Drug War’ attempts to highlight the farcical nature of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ and the complicit role of the US government in their continued proliferation. At heart, it claims that everything comes down to profit and gain… which, fundamentally, is not a radical or controversial statement.
The chain of events which caused the financial meltdown of the 2000s are surprisingly complicated and convoluted. ‘Inside Job’ attempts to simplify these in order to make them intelligible to the man on the street, whilst simultaneously exposing the key roles played by financial institutions in causing the crash. In a way, it’s an unglamorous pre-cursor to 2015’s ‘The Big Short’.
Why let the liberals have all of the conspiracy theory fun? Conservative writer and commentator Dinesh D’Souza tries his own hand at influencing American voters in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election by asserting that Barack Obama is hell-bent on reducing American influence in a global sphere due to his anti-colonial upbringing.
As well as putting John Lennon’s gradual transformation from popstar to anti-war activist under the microscope, ‘The US vs John Lennon’ also asks uncomfortable questions about the US government’s treatment of the singer. Though Lennon is painted in an unrealistically positive light, the points raised by the documentary are undeniably salient.
‘Food, Inc.’ is probably the least similar film to ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ on this list, solely because it doesn’t attempt to distort facts or give a one-sided view on its subject matter. Instead, it simply highlights the unpleasant reality of industrial farming methods, both with respect to the inhumane treatment of animals and the unsustainable effect of agriculture on the environment.
All of the movies above are serious critiques and exposés of what the filmmakers believe to be corrupt or unjust institutions. However, who says you can’t poke holes in a system without poking fun at it, too? Hell, Louis Theroux has forged a very successful career out of doing just that. Below is one more suggestion which exposes an unpleasant underbelly whilst simultaneously giving it a quick tickle.
As one writer from the Canadian Press comments, “‘Religulous’ delivers a laugh-out loud attack on the most sacred of cows.” Religions of all persuasions are ridiculed in the most offensive manner, upsetting the devout and tickling the funny bones of everyone else.
The explosion of the World Wide Web has led to an accompanying boom in the number of conspiracy theories floating around in cyberspace, which, in turn, has provoked a whole slew of documentaries dedicated to exposing these cover-ups, whether real or imagined. The list above barely scratches the surface – have I missed out any of your favourites?
If so, give us all more food for thought and sustenance for our suspicion by dropping them in the comments box below.
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