It was February 11, 1987 that Michael Moore set out on the first day of production to make a movie (working titles included Dance Band On The Titanic and Hometown) about the GM layoffs affecting his town. The date was already historic; it was the 50th anniversary of the winning of The Great Flint Sit-Down Strike.
During production Moore never thought a movie about laid off autoworkers would go down in history as a documentary whose influence cannot be calculated. It changed GM. It changed how corporations deal with public relations , it changed Flint, and it changed America. And thus the world… one simple little movie. Moore made perhaps the first entertaining theatrical documentary. As Moore states in the Production Notes: “I wanted it to play like Pee Wee’s Playhouse, not Hotel Terminus.” It went on to become the highest grossing non-concert documentary until his other movies, and another oddball – one about Penguins – came along.
Roger & Me still ranks in the top 20 grossing documentaries of all time. (Moore’s Sicko, Bowling for Columbine, and Capitalism: A Love Story are all in the top 10).
It had an angle and attempted to explain to the viewer, with humor and sadness and drama that something is wrong here, let’s do something about it!
Most documentaries up to that time attempted to just observe and report. Roger & Me busted through the rules of journalism and dared to be funny, witty, and have something to say.
The film is also known for being first to mention corporate offshoring, that is, eliminating American jobs and replacing them in Mexico or elsewhere. As that other famous Roger, Roger Ebert, said in his review for Siskel & Ebert “Here is the movie a lot of people were waiting for… a ruckus, angry, funny, unforgiving counter-attack against corporate greed.”
John Pierson, at the time Michael Moore’s legal representative who helped sell the movie to Warner Brothers, states in his book Spike Mike Reloaded “When [Michael Moore] walked into my life in August, 1989, he was definitely in the right place at the right time with the right… movie.”
When the film began to generate buzz on the film festival circuit, people smelled something in the air, and it wasn’t the paint fumes from the GM Truck plant. Major studios began to make offers. A few grand, then a few hundred grand, then millions. For a documentary about laid-off autoworkers. In 1989.
Flint was no strange to history-making, from the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike, to appointing one of the very first black mayors in America, to the first open-housing ordinance. Flint had been on the national radar before but here was a blip that came at 24 frames per second and attracting sell-out crowds wherever it went.
When the bidding war ended, Roger & Me was sold to Warner Brothers for $3 million, and Moore immediately setup a foundation to help artists like himself get their first start. He’s since given over $750,000 to Flint-area charities and foundations.
Moore frequently comments that Roger & Me is a movie that just won’t go away, commenting that “…it’s always 1989.” Our attempts here on Roger-And-Me.com are mostly to provide academics, curious persons, and fans with a platform and deeper look into one of America’s best documentary films was made.
This website is our humble efforts at paying homage to our favorite movie of all time. Enjoy.
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