The Metro Washington Council, AFL-CIO and the DC Labor Film Festival last night hosted an area premiere showing of Michael Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story. In the film, Moore skillfully juxtaposes modern American ideas of capitalism against traditional values of equality, justice and democracy. Someone says capitalism is established by the U.S. Constitution? Moore visits the National Archives but cannot find "capitalism" or "free enterprise" anywhere in the original Constitution. Capitalism has brought us the highest standard of living and prosperity? Moore finds victims of the foreclosure crisis who disagree, persuasively. I laughed out loud when Moore portrayed what Jesus might have said if Christianity endorsed capitalism.
Capitalism: A Love Story blows a big whistle. In previous films, Moore has taken on General Motors (Roger & Me), the gun lobby (Bowling for Columbine) and our health care system (Sicko). Now Moore takes on our entire economic system. He draws on material from his earlier films. For example, he notes how he predicted that the economic devastation GM visited on his home town of Flint, Michigan, would be a foreshadow for the rest of the county. Now he finds that banks were using a contractor from Flint to send out foreclosure notices to homeowners across the country. And can you imagine Jesus saying, "I'm sorry, I cannot heal you because it is a pre-existing condition"? As in Bowling, Moore points to fearmongering as a tool of the elite to keep voters from acting in their true self-interest.
As our economy pushes the richest few to ever higher levels of excess while the middle class is pushed into competition with Third World labor and living conditions, Moore has picked an opportune time for his pitch. He presents practical examples of alternatives. A high-tech factory in Wisconsin is owned by all its workers, each having an equal vote. What are the odds that anyone of them would ever vote for any layoffs? A bread factory in California is employee owned, and each worker shares in $65,000 in annual profits. Moore presents American politicians who call for regulations that protect consumers, and reject corporate welfare. Engaging, funny, and thoughtful, Capitalism will be viewed by historians as a test for our era. Can we change our ways of thinking and acting to make our economy viable for all people and all time, or will we continue devastation of our homes, our land and our people for the sake of a privileged few?
Capitalism: A Love Story, opens nationally this weekend. In New York, it is drawing the highest per-screen attendance of any movie so far this year. After the showing last night, Moore received the 2009 DC Labor FilmFest Tony Mazzocchi Labor Arts Award. Moore called it the People's Oscar. Taking questions from the audience, Moore said that camera equipment is much cheaper than it used to be. Each of us has more opportunities to express what we want to say, and document what is happening around us. "The camera is a powerful tool, and all we need is our head and our heart," Moore says.