Cinemasochist Strikes Again!

Every once in a while I subject myself to stuff that I know I’ll hate in the interest of seeing what other people find entertaining. Sometimes I’ll come across a YouTube video that bothers me and I’ll get lost sea of hate mongering videos with even more hateful comments attached to it. The most worst case of this lead me to a training video for people who want to hunt undocumented workers. What amazes me the most about this video is that a bunch of people put in work to make this product because they thought there was an audience for it.

The same thing came to mind when I subjected myself to a feature-length propaganda piece called “An American Carol.” Don’t worry, I didn’t buy a ticket. I snuck in after paying for another movie. I like jokes about Michael Moore as much as the next guy but my impression of this film is that Republicans are still holding a grudge toward a film that was released four years ago and ultimately failed in it’s main objective getting George W. Bush out of office even though it succeeded critically and financially.

I was especially disturbed by a scene that may have suggested that plastic surgery is a better investment than your children’s college education because the risk of them being brain-washed by a bunch of hippies is very real. As a student and, hopefully, future teacher, I found this hard to sit through but…this is where the masochism comes in, I love listening to the audience react to this stuff and I reached a point where I get a thrill from seeing which jokes made them laugh.

Diana, my fiance and a college professor, felt differently.

“I felt insulted at An American Carol’s implication of me manipulating my students or carrying out anyone’s agenda but theirs. I believe the most beautiful aspect of teaching is seeing the outcome of information and different skills processed through diverse minds. I believe an educated mind is an independent mind. We’re shaping human beings, not sheep. I think that scene -amongst many other scenes- in the movie is not only ignorant, but really reflects disrespect for the American audience. We’are smarter than that. It’s not funny, it is offensive.”

All that said, the aspect of this film that I found most offensive was the suggestion that all documentary filmmakers are just hustling, trying to take a shortcut into the Hollywood system. It was funny a few times when they mentioned that Michael Moore makes movies for people who don’t go to movies and when all of Uncle Michael’s nieces and nephews needed help for there various ailments and he couldn’t save them because documentaries don’t make money. Good jokes. Nice, solid jabs but I think they pushed too hard in trying to discredit all documentaries by trotting out a Rosie O’Donnell look alike who wants to package a bunch of outrageous lies and label them as documentary to turn it into truth. That’s not what documentary is. We stretch the truth to fit a dramatic arch and we’ll cut a story short to get a happy ending but ethics and integrity are a huge part of that process.

There’s more to rant about, like Bill O’Reilly replacing George Washington as one of the Holy Trinity that delivers the ultimate truth about U.S. history, but I’m trying to keep this discourse civil and removed from partisan bickering. As I said, I’m writing about this movie as a documentary filmmaker and a student and future college professor. I hope that anyone who watched this movie will respond with their thoughts on the film and the overall experience of the screening.