On a Tribeca panel with Susan Sarandon, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore says he hated Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for Superman”
Michael Moore thinks that the News Corp. phone hacking scandal in the United Kingdom may have spread to the United States, the documentary filmmaker said at a Tribeca Film Festival panel on Sunday.
"I can't believe it just happened in Britain, because really who cares about what's happening over there," Moore joked.
Moore said he thinks that the hacking that cast a shadow over Rupert Murdoch's sprawling media empire in recent months may have taken place at the company's stateside news properties.
He said that as investigations take place domestically, it may be discovered that it "…happened here with certain people's voice mails."
"It will be interesting to see what happens with Fox News," he added.
So far, the incidents of bribery and phone hacking have been largely consigned to News Corp.'s U.K. tabloids, but last week Mark Lewis, a British lawyer who represented several phone hacking victims in his country, said he was considering filing hacking-related suits in the United States.
No evidence of hacking has emerged involving Murdoch's U.S. operations, a suite of properties that includes not just Fox News, but also the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.
Susan Sarandon, the panel's moderator, did not weigh in on the hacking issue, although she said that she knew she had been the target of government surveillance. She said that she had her phone tapped and recently had trouble getting security clearance to go to the White House.
As might be expected, the more than an hour-long panel discussion between two of Hollywood's most prominent liberals dealt with a range of political topics such as teacher unions, the upcoming presidential election and the Occupy Wall Street movement, in addition to the craft of documentary filmmaking.
When it came to the current contest between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Moore said that he believed that Republicans were engaging in voter suppression because they feared that the majority of Americans were supportive of the president's policies.
"Why would Republicans want to limit the number of people voting if they believe this is a conservative country," Moore said.
It wasn't just the GOP who drew Moore's ire. The director was unsparing in his criticism for fellow documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim's acclaimed "Waiting for 'Superman.'"
Moore said he hated the 2010 film, which is sharply critical of teacher unions.
He said that the film picks the wrong villain, and argued that not enough resources are being diverted to public education.
"Morale is horrible," Moore said of public school teachers.
Sarandon agreed that the teachers were being unfairly scapegoated for the country's fiscal problems when blame should rest with other expenditures like foreign wars.
"Teachers are the unsung heroes," Sarandon said.
Beyond their shared attraction to leftist causes, Moore said that he and Sarandon had another common bond — they are both introverts.
Moore said that his natural shyness could be a hindrance when it came to filming gotcha moments in his films, where he corners Republican lawmakers, health insurance company higher-ups or corporate executives and grills them on camera. He said that before every confrontational interview he need to psych himself up by remembering the political issues at stake.
"I'm trying to convince myself that I'm going to get through this alive…but I'm always terrified," Moore said.
"I'm not inclined to beat through the CEOs' doors," he added.
He said he often felt bad for his subjects, even Charlton Heston, the late actor and National Rifle Association president he cornered so memorably in his 2002 documentary about gun control, "Bowling for Columbine." After the interview ended with Heston walking out, having made some racially insensitive comments, Moore said his cameraman started to cry.
"We all love Charlton Heston," Moore said. "We grew up with him."
Both Sarandon and Moore urged the crowd to get involved in the political process, in particular the Occupy Movement. Both made well-publicized visits to visit protestors at Zuccotti Park last fall.
For Moore, the movement was an important opportunity to bring attention to economic inequality in the country.
"There's not a backlash of the working class, there's an elimination of the middle class going on," Moore said.
Sarandon said she was impressed by how knowledgeable the young protestors she met were about issues, saying they were "better informed" than her generation.
Moore said he also had great faith in the rising generation of Americans, saying they were more open and accepting than his own.
He said that the Baby Boomer generation had left a political mess for their children, but it should get credit for its parenting.
"One thing we have done is raise a good group of kids," Moore said.