Project #2- Prospectus

For my second project in Visual Research Methods I would like to analyze the documentary “Sicko” written, directed, and narrated by filmmaker Michael Moore. I will do this by applying documentary theory from Broderick Fox’s Documentary Media and John Ellis’ Documentary: Witness and Self-Revelation, as well as researching scholarly publications, and adding my own analysis.

I am interested in this project for several reasons. Michael Moore is commonly considered to be unpatriotic and “anti-American” in his harsh critique and mocking of the American system, and Americans in general. I consider myself to be very patriotic, and at the same time I view Moore’s work as intelligent, thought provoking, and often “true.” This opens up many questions I have about form and message. Moore employs a strategy that scholar Broderick Fox identifies as “shame and ridicule.” Is form what most people find offensive? What part does form play in affecting viewers’ feelings on the documentary and its subject matter? Or is it only message that offends? Can one make a documentary concerned with delicate subject matter and not offend the masses, while still maintaining the natural controversy?

I will analyze the methods Moore uses to deliver his message and critique the system. I believe that Moore’s talent as a filmmaker shows through in “Sicko.” In Documentary Media, Fox addresses using “shame and ridicule” as a strategy in delivering a message. As a general statement, I believe that everyone who has viewed a Michael Moore film has been left feeling emotional. I would like to analyze how he effectively evokes emotion in viewers with his strategy of shame, ridicule, and irony. Additionally, Moore makes interesting choices with his voice and physical one-man journalist approach to his work. I am interested in analyzing his personal presence in “Sicko” and his voice, as well as what his voice does for the message.

As John Ellis’ claims, one of the difficulties of “truth” in documentary is a subject wanting to tell their story and express themself, while a filmmaker makes a film to communicate their own message. I am particularly interested in looking at filmmaker ethics and responsibility in Moore’s film “Sicko.” This also relates to what I have stated above, and Moore’s choices in how he depicts his nation and its people.  

Although Michael Moore’s films have often been the topic of discussion among film scholars, I believe this project is unique in its attempt to discuss how Michael Moore performs in his art, why he makes specific choices, and if “Sicko” is ethical and was created ethically.     

1 comment
  1. alex said:

    I think working on ethics in MM is a great question. And to be clear: while some people think he in “unpatriotic” many more do not. He is probably the most successful documentary filmmaker in the history of documentary. People love his films. Also, there is quite a bit written on him, so be sure to look at that too, before you commence.

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