Filmmaker Michael Moore gave residents of his adopted Michigan community an early showing of his new documentary on Saturday and urged them to help overthrow an economic system he said was beyond redemption.
More than 500 people crowded into a theater in Bellaire to see "Capitalism: A Love Story," a film based on the premise that greed and corruption have subverted U.S. democracy.
"I know what's in front of me these next weeks and months," Moore told one audience, anticipating withering criticism from conservative politicians and commentators, then added with a laugh: "That's why I wanted to watch this with you guys before I'm thrown to the lions."
Moore keeps a lakeside home near Bellaire, a rural village about 240 miles northwest of Detroit in Michigan's northwestern Lower Peninsula, and produced the film in a nearby town. The two showings along with three parties raised about $25,000 for the local Antrim County Democratic Party, its chairman said.
Michigan's unemployment rate of 15.2 percent is the nation's highest. It's even worse in parts of northern Michigan, where numerous auto parts factories and other manufacturers have folded in recent years.
The film blames the economic crisis on President Reagan-era deregulation and greedy business executives who Moore believes undermined free enterprise by pushing for policies that benefited the richest 1 percent while hurting the lower and middle classes.
Moore and his team produced "Capitalism" in a studio in Traverse City south of Bellaire.
"It was better for us to be here, in the heart of the trouble, instead of in the bubble of New York," said Moore, a Flint native.
There's little doubt the film will be controversial. Moore has long enraged conservatives with darkly satirical works such as "Bowling for Columbine," which criticized the nation's love affair with guns, and "Fahrenheit 9/11," an attack on the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq.
Moore has been a polarizing figure since his first documentary, "Roger & Me," accused General Motors Corp.'s executives of fleecing his hometown 20 years ago.
"Capitalism" also includes scenes from Flint, as Moore and his father — a former GM worker — visit the site of the spark plug factory where the elder Moore once worked.
"I don't have an 'interest' in Flint — I am Flint, just as anyone who was born and raised there is a part of it," Moore said in an interview between the showings. "Growing up there has had a profound effect on me."
Former Republican Gov. William Milliken, who watched with his wife, Helen, said the film was powerful.
"The message of the injustices that still persist and prevail in our society, that's a powerful message," he said.
Melanie Welch, formerly a teacher but now unemployed, said she was allowed to watch the film for free after slipping a note to Moore's wife, Kathleen Glynn.
"I wish everybody in the country could see it," said Welch, 63. "People need to get away from their computers, video games and TVs and get politically active so we can take this country back."
Ashley Barber, 18, of Muskegon, had never seen a Moore film and acknowledged fearing beforehand she'd be bored. Instead, she came away inspired.
"I had no idea the banks were doing these kinds of terrible things," she said. "Our generation is really going to have to change things."
The film will be released nationwide on Oct. 2.