Writing at The Federalist, Amelia Hamilton describes her attendance at filmmaker Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. As you might expect from notorious lefty Moore, the festival focused less on actual film than it did on anti-capitalist sentiment and Donald Trump fear-mongering.
"All of the panels had one odd major theme in common, at least for a film festival: they were not, for the most part, about film," writes Hamilton (full disclosure - the author of the piece is a friend of mine).
"Sure, panelists talked about their movies... but they also railed against the horrors of big banks and campaigned to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Never mind that two key sponsors of the event were wealth management groups tied to big banks, and that the festival largely ran on unpaid labor. But such details seemed unimportant to Moore and his crew or were, at least, inconvenient truths."
Hamilton goes on to describe how the four panels she attended swiftly devolved into stump speeches for progressive politics. In the first panel, all nine speakers complained
about the trials of poor Americans and the sad state of the working class. Fortunately, each of the panelists felt, deep in their hearts, that they could relate to economic struggles. One panelist was too poor to afford The New York Times or, more likely, couldn’t be bothered to get it herself (“I just had The New York Times bought for me”), and one was forced to forgo a vacation in the Hamptons for dismal quarters further down the East Coast (“I was on The Vineyard…”).
They had few ideas on how to rectify America’s wage inequality, but agreed the U.S. government could take one major step in spreading awareness of the plight of the poor: fund their documentaries with taxpayer dollars."
Michael Moore discussed such cinematic aesthetic considerations as: how Trump is responsible for poor reviews of the all-female Ghostbusters reboot; how schools should use his documentaries to inculcate students with progressive values (“In many countries they have a national curriculum. They don’t have yahoos out in the sticks determining what can be printed in textbooks.”); and how "Art, the cinema, is our front line army against fear, hate, bigotry, ignorance, and bullies." Moore seems unaware that fear, hate, bigotry, ignorance, and bullying sums up his own work.
That last quote about "the cinema" was the description for a panel about film in the time of Trump, which Hamilton reports was devoid of any discussion of film itself. Instead,
[f]or 90 minutes, the eight panelists, including Moore, two women, and an excommunicated Catholic priest, talked only about how much they hated Trump. None of the panelists, including Moore—who is the founder and chairman of the film festival, a 501(c)(3) non-profit—apparently cared about putting that tax status at risk. At the close of the panel, Moore even openly endorsed Hillary Clinton and encouraged audience members not only to vote for her, but to organize, get friends to register to vote, and take time off of work to get five friends to the polls to drown out the Trump voters.
Hamilton herself asked the only question about film:
During the Q&A I asked the panel about Hillary blaming a filmmaker for a series of international protests she claimed led to six American deaths in Benghazi and other violence around the world, particularly whether they thought it was fair the filmmaker was forced into hiding and jailed although never accused of a crime.
The panelists seemed stunned I would ask such a question. One wondered why I would be asking a question about something as inconsequential about film. “We’re way too privileged to have that conversation,” one panelist replied. “If that’s the conversation we have to have given what the consequences [of this election] are. I don’t mean that as a dismissal, but the real-life consequences of so many people in a Trump presidency that could actually happen…”
When I reminded him this was a film panel at a film festival, so it seemed fair to ask a question about film, the panelists said it was important always to be aware of and fight against any efforts to censor artists, and quickly moved on. My question was the only mention of film.
So much for art.
Images courtesy of Amelia Hamilton