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Aug 15, 2008

Roger and Me

Flint, Michigan - I came to know about the existence of this town and the role it played in American auto industry through Michael Moore's later documentaries like Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit9/11. It took me almost twenty years to watch the documentary that kick-started the Michael Moore phenomenon, Roger and Me, way back from 1989, part of which Moore financed mortgaging his home.

Roger and Me is a personal statement for Moore who was born and brought up in Flint and is the son of a former GM employee. It is his first documentary film, the one which changed the way the world viewed documentaries. However big the anti-Michael Moore camp is, one thing is for certain, the man has talent and his works are crowd-pullers or ask Miramax, Lions Gate, MGM or the Weinstein Company or any company who financed him assured of the whopping returns.

Documentaries started beeping in the ordinary film buff's radar after Moore started making them. Of the top five highest grossing documentaries of all time - three are made by Michael Moore (Farenheit 9/11, Sicko and Bowling for Columbine.) So what was it about Roger and Me that clicked?

It was an emotional response of a Flint native who had just been let off from his job in San Francisco, returns home to find that the backbone of economy in his Michigan hometown, General Motors is closing their plant and laying off 30,000 workers. The man had good reason to be angry. Out of his anger and his sense for social justice comes the documentary Roger and Me. Through out the length of the movie Moore is trying to track down GM's then chairman Roger Smith and to make him come down to Flint to witness what the result of his one action(ie closing the plant which was not making any losses per se) had on the community.

Before he beings his quest he presents his credentials, from the old home-movie clips of toddler Michael Moore, black and white photos of his Dad working at GM factory, his job in San Francisco - a city where everyone has a job and although that job seems to be drinking lattes in cafes and how he was let off, to come back as a disgruntled young man back to Flint only to find out things are much worse off in Flint. The scene is set. The journey begins. The destination is Roger Smith. No spoilers here, if you didn't find time to watch this documentary in the last 20 years, don't hesitate now, it won't fail you.

Personally I like the narrative style of Moore, I think that is what brings him his audience. Though he has been accused presenting a world view to support his arguments, almost all the time Moore sides with the victims and the vanquished not the victors. Contrary to what Churchill famously said, history needs to be written by both sides.

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To catch up on the past, present and future of Flint, check out Flint Expatriates: A blog for the long-lost residents of The Vehicle City.

www.flintexpats.com