Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 19, 2013

Moore’s 'Roger and Me' to be preserved in National Film Registry

BY NATHAN PAYNE npayne@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s 1989 film “Roger and Me” is among 25 films set to be preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

The film will join 624 other films that have been chosen to be preserved in the national facility for their “great cultural, historic or aesthetic significance,” according to information released by the Library of Congress today.

“As a filmmaker, this is truly one of the top honors you can receive in this country,” Moore said. “The library of congress is now saying this film will be protected by the government. I’m not used to the government protecting me.”

In the film, Moore continually tries to contact then-General Motors CEO Roger Smith to talk about the company’s layoffs of 30,000 workers in Flint. All the while, he points out the socioeconomic disparity between the workers and their former bosses and follows the fall of the city’s once-thriving middle class.

At the time the film was made, Moore was on unemployment earning $98 per week.

It’s a theme Moore — who lives part-time in the Grand Traverse region and co-founded the Traverse City Film Festival -- he could have pursued in documentary form in nearly any factory town in Michigan.

“I could have been born in Dearborn and could have made the same film about Ford or Chrysler,” he said.

The sometimes unpopular views portrayed by the film at times drew criticism, he added.

“I was called crazy,” Moore said.

The film helped launch Moore into a long career creating documentary films that make social statements and focus on social issues in the United States. The documentaries often take a stance against corporate or government interests on the behalf of working class people.

“Roger and Me” was chosen to be preserved because film historians recognized it as one of the first that was distributed to movie theaters and one of the first that took a stance and made a statement for one side of a political issue, Moore said.

“The film opened the door to many other documentary filmmakers,” he said. “On a filmmaking level it changed things; you could have a point of view.”

The recognition is a vindication of sorts, but Moore said he remains troubled by the worsening plight of Michigan’s middle class.

“The true regret I have is that the cities of Flint and Detroit, which are at the center of my film, are now in much worse shape — as is the American middle class in general,” he said.

Also included in this year’s group of 25 films that will be preserved in the Library of Congress: “Pulp Fiction,” “The Right Stuff,” “Mary Poppins” and “The Magnificent Seven.”