That's where you're wrong. Most documentaries, especially the best ones, have an opinion and argue for it. Even those that pretend to be objective reflect the filmmaker's point of view. Moviegoers should observe the bias, take it into account and decide if the film supports it or not.
Michael Moore is a liberal activist. He is the first to say so. He is alarmed by the prospect of a second term for George W. Bush, and made "Fahrenheit 9/11" for the purpose of persuading people to vote against him.
That is all perfectly clear, and yet in the days before the film opens June 25, there'll be bountiful reports by commentators who are shocked! shocked! that Moore's film is partisan. "He doesn't tell both sides," we'll hear, especially on Fox News, which is so famous for telling both sides.
The wise French director Godard once said, "The way to criticize a film is to make another film." That there is not a pro-Bush documentary available right now I am powerless to explain. Surely, however, the Republican National Convention will open with such a documentary, which will position Bush comfortably between Ronald Reagan and God [...]
The pitfall for Moore is not subjectivity, but accuracy. We expect him to hold an opinion and argue it, but we also require his facts to be correct. I was an admirer of his previous doc, the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine," until I discovered that some of his "facts" were wrong, false or fudged [...]
Because I agree with Moore's politics, his inaccuracies pained me, and I wrote about them in my Answer Man column. Moore wrote me that he didn't expect such attacks "from you, of all people." But I cannot ignore flaws simply because I agree with the filmmaker. In hurting his cause, he wounds mine.
Now comes "Fahrenheit 9/11," floating on an enormous wave of advance publicity. It inspired a battle of the titans between Disney's Michael Eisner and Miramax's Harvey Weinstein. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It has been rated R by the MPAA, and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo has signed up as Moore's lawyer, to challenge the rating. The conservative group Move America Forward, which successfully bounced the mildly critical biopic "The Reagans" off CBS and onto cable, has launched a campaign to discourage theaters from showing "Fahrenheit 9/11."
The campaign will amount to nothing and disgraces Move America Forward by showing it trying to suppress disagreement instead of engaging it. The R rating may stand; there is a real beheading in the film, and only fictional beheadings get the PG-13. Disney and Miramax will survive.
Moore's real test will come on the issue of accuracy. He can say whatever he likes about Bush, as long as his facts are straight. Having seen the film twice, I saw nothing that raised a flag for me, and I haven't heard of any major inaccuracies.