Michael Moore talks to Susan Sarandon at the Tribeca Film Festival 2012

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When your daughter is scared of a monster hiding in the closet, what do you do to make her feel safe and no longer afraid?

You open the closet. Show her there are no monsters inside (you might still have to leave the light on)

When people are ignorant about something they are afraid. When they have information they no longer have fear. We need to have the information to understand what is going on and what the correct choices are. (Michael Moore, Director)

Yesterday was my second round of Tribeca Film Festival events. Last year I was gripped by the 10th anniversary of the festival that coincided with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This year, I began my 2012 film festival itinerary with a delightful conversation between Michael Moore and the Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise). Both sit on the committee for the documentary film competition and so the discussion was centred around documentaries; what works, what are the big questions we need to address and how documentaries can improve their digestibility in the film viewing world.

Michael Moore began. He has to stay “true to the art”, he says. It is a film first and foremost. An entertainment piece that acts as a vehicle to put out his opinions, political and other. As they discussed a recent Tribeca luncheon, where the likes of Robert De Niro were hanging out, they giggled as they admitted to their introverted natures. The two shy kids sat at the back of the room keeping to themselves. That being said then, does he get scared before busting in on a likely hostile target?

“Yes” he admits, “every time”

Documentaries find it notoriously difficult to make it on the commercial stage. The likes of Moore and Spurlock, for example, do very well but on a level below, struggling documentary makers battle to be seen and heard. The Academy Awards recently recently altered their rules in order to make the voting for documentaries fair and equal to their fictional counterparts. Spearheaded by Moore, the Academy now allows everyone in the documentary branch to vote for the nominees, whereas before only a handful of committee members ever had any say. It seems the tides may be turning. Documentaries may get the recognition and the respect they deserve? Moore is a self-proclaimed optimist. Despite the often frustrating revelations in his films, he remains confident that the world will be a better place. After all he never dreamt that the US could elect a Black President. He asks the audience, “are our kids bigots and homophobes? No they are a good group. The next generation will fix what we, the baby boomers, tried to destroy and the world will be a better place.”

How? Well he wants us to consider a few things. He wants media literacy to be compulsory in schools, “so that our children will understand propaganda and how to critically analyse what we hear everyday and from every media source around us”. He wants us all to join “Occupy Wall Street” and that doesn’t mean sitting in a tent in a park downtown. He wants us to stop waiting for someone else to fix things. WE have to do it. “Politics has a smaller and smaller gene pool. We are seeing copies of copies. We need to get money out of politics and we need to make ourselves heard. Run for office. Make a movie about something you care about. The technology is there. And if you want it to go viral? Well, put a cat in it.”

Moore and Sarandon were a pleasure to overhear in conversation. They were passionate about knowledge and activism, Sarandon on her take on how we could contribute to an alternative, less controversial Kony 2012 movement Hope North, and Moore on how people should be empowered to make change happen for themselves.

Good point Michael. Good point Susan.

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