MICHAEL MOORE has a lot to answer for. His success has precipitated a flurry of documentary polemics. Right wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America was a huge hit with Fox News fans (including Fox’s owner, Rupert Murdoch). Using bombastic rhetoric and questionable scholarship, it aimed to show the “roots of Obama’s rage”, creating what one commentator called an “outrageously unsubstantiated act of character assassination”.
Made for $2.5m, it eclipsed Moore’s most recent films, becoming the fourth biggest documentary in American box office history (admittedly not a badge of quality – in third place is Justin Bieber: Never Say Never).
This year, two films are offering a more balanced view of US politics, gaining the sort of access that 2016: Obama’s America actively avoided. RJ Cutler, having chronicled Vogue’s Anna Wintour in The September Issue, returns to his roots with a documentary called The World According to Dick Cheney, based on five days of one-on-one interviews with the man widely considered the most powerful vice president in American history.
Fellow documentary maker Errol Morris focuses on one of Bush’s other mentors, Donald Rumsfeld, the man who led America to war in Iraq and also played a major role in every Republican administration since Nixon (The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld). It’s familiar territory for Morris, having previously made Fog of War, a profile of former US secretary of defense and architect of the war in Vietnam, Robert McNamara.
With both offering unrivalled access, it will be fascinating to hear the bogeymen of Farenheit 9/11 speak for themselves.