WHO is he?

American documentary filmmaker, writer and political critic whose highly celebrated films have overhauled the popular perception of documentary filmmaking in the United States. Moore started his career as an editor of political magazines and has made about a dozen documentary films since the late Eighties. His biggest commercial hit, also the highest-grossing documentary ever, Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Although Moore’s politics could be classified as being left liberal, he has never assigned himself a fixed label and has not been hesitant in criticising the policies of both the major American parties that he finds problematic. His films have vehemently decried George Bush’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the omnipotence of corporations, the national healthcare system, the lack of proper gun control and the all-pervasive nature of neoliberal capitalism.

Style

Michael Moore’s variegated style combines straightforward Cinema Vérité like shooting with handheld cameras with exuberant editing techniques predicated on constructing pointed ironies and emotionally-charged visual salvos. Furthermore, Moore is widely known for appropriating elements from popular culture — music, TV shows and mainstream Hollywood cinema — to capture attention instantly and drive home the point. Also characteristic is the use of slow motion, clips from archival material and the ever-present, self-deprecating, regularly sarcastic voiceover by the director himself.

WHY is he of interest?

It wouldn’t be a stretch if one said Michael Moore single handedly popularised the documentary format in the mainstream American film scene with his highly successful films. Moore’s provocative and rhetorical style has become so widely embraced that young documentary filmmakers and users on public video sites have started using it as a shortcut to popularity. Though detractors consider Moore’s approach to be reductive and shallow, the significant impact he has had on the documentary scene and film-based activism is undeniable.

WHERE to discover him?

Bowling for Columbine (2002) takes the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, where two students gunned down 13 people before killing themselves, as the starting point of a high-octane, incisive investigation of America’s perennial fascination with assault weaponry and the culture of fear and hostility that it breeds and breeds on. Moore’s film is bracing, moving and, given the events that transpired last month in Connecticut, more topical now than ever.