Hard to believe that it's been 25 years since audiences first met a frumpy, bespectacled young filmmaker named Michael Moore in his debut feature, Roger & Me, following him on his quest to find and talk to the CEO of General Motors, Roger Smith, about scores of factory layoffs that had hit Moore's beloved hometown of Flint, Michigan.
Marking the film's anniversary with an upcoming Blu-Ray release, Warner Bros. has digitally restored Roger & Me from its original 16mm format -- and the Sie FilmCenter will unveil it this Wednesday, December 17 at 7:10 p.m., with Michael Moore himself Skyping in for a post-film Q&A to discuss the film's history and what its creation did in the long run for his troubled native city.
With its release in 1989, Roger & Me forever changed the face of the documentary film by presenting an angle not often captured in the format: the face and voice of the filmmaker himself. Moore had become concerned with the economic and sociological downfall of Flint that started in 1985 when General Motors closed eleven factories, eliminating 30,000 jobs. Without a safety net, this decision left thousands scrambling for work, evicted from their homes; it also sparked an increase in crime and inspired enormous tourism bungles by the city's leaders, who tried to pretend that things in the blue-collar metropolis were fine and dandy.
Rather than simply document the hardships and interview GM execs, as a standard documentary of the time would have, Moore inserted himself, his family's history in Flint and his own opinions into the film, creating a unique narrative structure while he seeks answers from the CEO of General Motors -- whose whereabouts are about as elusive as a succinct answer to the question of why a company would deal such devastation to thousands of employees in the blink of an eye.
Moore's approach elevated the doc format from rote PBS ready fare, and with the help of a huge (and unheard of for an indie film at the time) promotional budget, Roger & Me found great mainstream success for a documentary and also inspired a host of future filmmakers, like Supersize Me's Morgan Spurlock, to reach for better methods of telling these cinematic and personal stories that still resonate with viewers 25 years later.
Roger & Me screens at 7:10 pm. Wednesday, December 17 at the Sie FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax. Tickets are $10 for non-members, $7 for Denver Film Society Members. For more information, visit DenverFilm.Org or call 303-595-3456.
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Dear Constant Reader you can learn more about Keith Garcia on Twitter: @ConstantWatcher