Michael Moore died yesterday, August 1, 2011, at his home in Michigan. Moore was on the Board of Directors of the Traverse City Film Festival.
By: Ruth Freeman
MICHIGAN- Michael Frances Moore, who spent his career making award-winning documentaries, died Tuesday at 57. His also wrote popular books, though those who resented his politics, filmmaking stunts, or both, sometimes accused him of being a liberal straw man.
Born in Davison, Mich., on April 23, 1954, his father and grandfather both worked at General Motors factories. Moore witnessed the effects on his hometown of the automotive industry moving overseas.
This was the subject of his first film, “Roger & Me,” in 1988. It portrayed Moore’s efforts to gain an interview with then-head of General Motors, Roger B. Smith, after the company began shutting factories in Flint, Mich., and opening new ones in Mexico.
With its success, Moore produced others to critical and commercial acclaim, examining issues from the vantage point of the working class.From a blue-collar background and high school education, Moore argued that the media ignored folks like him.
He told NBC Today Show Anchor Jodi Applegate in 1998 that, “somebody like me, for some weird reason, slips in under the radar. … It upsets some people, especially the people with the money, because I'm going to come out and I'm going to tell the truth about what's really going on.”
Moore often wore a Michigan State University baseball cap and jeans during interviews, which was mocked by opponents but resonated with supporters.
He won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Documentary with “Bowling for Columbine,” his exploration of gun violence in the United States, named for the site of a school shooting in 1999. In the film, he was sure to separate those who commit gun violence from all gun owners, proudly displaying his own National Rifle Association membership card.
He used his Oscar acceptance speech to assail President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. “We have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons,” he said. “We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you.”
Some considered Moore’s brand of didacticism abrasive and dishonest. In his 2004 documentary about the war on terror, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” he confronted members of Congress on a street in Washington, D.C., about why they didn’t encourage their children to go to war.
In an essay tallying the movie’s mistakes for Slate.com, journalist Christopher Hitchens said, “He'll just try anything once and see if it floats or flies or gets a cheer.”
There were those, however, who felt he was a champion of Middle America. Fellow Michigander, Madonna, praised Moore during a 2004 concert at Madison Square Garden for making the documentary, according to MTV Movie News.
She said, “I just wanted to publicly thank you for sticking your neck out, for going against the establishment, for giving us the hope.”
In his later life, he divided his time between Traverse City, Mich., and New York City.
Moore helped found the Traverse City Film Festival in 2004.
Festival organizers said on their website that last year’s film festival featured movies from over 25 countries and an attendance of 106,000 people. Moore remained on the board of directors until his death.
He was interested in politics and social causes early in life. His film festival website biography said he was the first 18 year old elected to public office in Michigan when he was voted to the Davison School Board.
His wife, Kathleen Glynn, who produced several of his movies, and stepdaughter, Natalie, survived Moore. Services were to be held Sunday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Traverse City, Mich.