I brought Michael Moore’s Sicko home for the family several weeks ago. We have been very impressed with all Michael Moore’s work (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 911,Roger and Me). Of course he is a native son, but that’s not all. We laughed, some of us cried and were appalled, especially by the introductory scene with a man sewing up, very neatly I might add, his own leg. We were all aghast and angered about the extreme state of affairs in our health care industry (notice the word industry isn’t that an oxymoron when used with health care?) Our teenagers were as engaged and incensed as we were. I immediately signed up to be placed on Michael Moore’s website.
I recently received an email update that Sicko is in the Oscar race for several awards, one of which being the prestigious Best Documentary. Up to this point in his Oscar nomination history, his work has always attracted attention. And it was almost obligatorily so. Any Michael Moore production is stellar work. But alas, it’s always intensely political and controversial. And we Americans don’t like being reminded of what makes us uncomfortable. When Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me beat out Fahrenheit 911, I was not surprised. Supersize Me was indeed an important film. I use it in class every year. But politically it was a much safer topic.
2008’s Oscar nominees are not quite so safe. The competitors for best documentary are all pretty inflammatory in themselves. Operation Homecoming depicts actors reading letters from soldiers stationed in Iraq. That’s got to be a poignant expose. If I had a child in Iraq, I’d find it pretty difficult to watch. Taxi to the Dark Side graphically and mercilessly shows US torture methods in Iraq and Afghanistan. I couldn’t watch all of this one. No End in Sight in this Sundance Channel film, we finally hear ex-Bush Sr. administration officials admit the screw ups and poor planning in Desert Storm. Too little too late, I say to the Republican lament and applaud the creators of this documentary.
Michael Moore seems not to even think of these films as competitors. According to his email and website, he looks upon these films and their producers as allies. He took Taxi, Operation Homecoming and No End in Sight three of them to the northern Michigan film festival. We are disappointed that it had to be in the UP. As trolls (what yuppers call those of us who live ‘below the bridge’ ), we did not make the drive to ‘God’s Country’ for this event. I hope my lucky Sault Ste. Marie relatives appreciate what they had up there.
So no matter which films bring home the coveted Academy Awards, we definitely have a selection of important political pieces to explore. Unfortunately, as Michael Moore says, not all of the documentaries have the distribution they deserve. ‘Sicko’ gets my vote at least for best director, because it exposes an area of our lives in America that all of us must face at some point or another: health care. Sicko, although some what tongue in cheek in parts brings home so much information about a system that we who live, work and interact in everyday, yet know so little about. It’s like we are all islands when it comes to health care. Most all of us have suffered our own abuses at the hands of this industry, yet we keep silent and know very little about each others sufferings.