PITTSBURGH — After leading a march for single-payer health insurance from the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh to a movie theater, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore gave the official U.S. premiere of his new film to an audience of unionists and progressive activists Tuesday night, one day before its Hollywood premiere.
Capitalism: A Love Story tackles the financial crisis in Moore’s established style of guerrilla filmmaking, attempting to confront Wall Street titans and sympathetically portray its victims.
“I called this film ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’ because they love their money,” he explained, referring to Wall Street. “But this film has a twist: They also love our money.”
Moore’s new film ranks with his best work, but he tackles a more abstract, or at least complex, topic – capitalism. He sees the film as the culmination of 20 years of work, starting with his breakthrough account of the decline of Flint, Michigan, in Roger and Me.
Starting with bank videos of bank robbers — one shown kissing his money— Moore uses old educational and other film clips to link the fall of Rome and contemporary America, then explores home foreclosures and a self-proclaimed “vulture” investor in foreclosures.
He asks, What is capitalism?, and examines how a system that enriches an elite and preys on the weak can survive in a democracy. It worked in the years after World War II as unions and government made the economy more egalitarian, Moore argues, but Reagan began a corporate takeover of government that led to a casino economy and eventual collapse.
Moore recounts the tale with personal stories and interviews. A top Wall Street trader who can’t explain derivatives. Priests explaining why capitalism is “radically evil.” Families of deceased workers whose employers had taken out “dead peasant” insurance policies on their employees to profit from their death.
He also tells the stories of those who fought back, from Republic Windows sit-in factory occupiers to a community group helping to return foreclosed families to their homes.
In lost film footage Moore’s team found, Franklin Roosevelt outlines his Second Bill of Rights, such as a right to a living wage job, healthcare and education. Workers at an employee-owned factory demonstrate how democracy can work on the job. Indeed, that’s Moore’s alternative to capitalism – democracy.
That’s a love story for those left out of the “plutonomy,” as Wall Street labels the new American economy Moore so devastatingly portrays.
David Moberg, a former senior editor of In These Times, was on staff with the magazine from when it began publishing in 1976 until his passing in July 2022. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy.