September 25, 1992

"Roger and Me" film-maker Michael Moore's hard-hitting comedy hit, will make its broadcast television debut as a special on "P.O.V.", the groundbreaking television series on Channel 10, Monday, September 28 at 10 p.m. The special two-hour edition of P.O.V. will include the world premiere of Moore's hilarious update, "Pets or Meat: the Return to Flint" made especially for this broadcast.

Included on more 10-best lists than any other film in 1989, "Roger & Me" was also named best documentary by the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles film Critics Association. Vincent Canby of the New York Times wrote, "America has an irrepressible new humorist in the tradition of Mark Twain." Siskel and Ebert said "Two jubilant thumbs up for this triumphant comedy -an American classic."

In "Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint," Moore comments sardonically on what's happened to him, to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and to the rest of the country since "Roger & Me" was finished. In one scene he recalls his first meeting with Rhonda, "the Bunny Lady." When he saw Rhonda's sign, "Bunnies for Sale: Pets or Meat," he thought, "That's our life with General Motors: first we're pets, then we're meat."

Announcing the program, "P.O.V." executive producer Marc N. Weiss said: "This is the icing on "P.O.V.'s" 5th birthday cake. "Roger & Me" is one of the most important non-fiction films in recent history."

Michael Moore has invented a new narrative form, weaving a story that is at once hilarious and tragic out of the raw material of working class people's lives. Moore's brilliant film blasts away pre-conceptions about the way documentaries are supposed to be -- and the way the world is supposed to be.

"Not only has "Roger & Me" proven to be prophetic, the update is every bit as funny -- and as sharp a social commentary- as the original. We know this television event will draw a wide audience and we hope it will serve as a catalyst for discussion of the critical issues facing this nation in a pivotal election year."

"I'm very pleased," said Michael Moore, "to have these two films airing on "P.O.V." and before a national audience at such a critical time. "Roger & Me" and "Pets or Meat" were made to give a voice to American working people who have no say in the decisions that drastically affect their lives. We are in a national depression. We need democracy in the workplace and democracy in our economy."

"Roger & Me"

In the 1980's when GM decided to reduce their operations in Flint and set up factories south of the border in Mexico, 30,000 of the 80,000 GM workers in Flint lost their jobs. The son of an auto factory worker, Michael Moore decided to embark upon a filmic odyssey to meet General Motors Chairman Roger Smith and convince him to visit Flint for a first hand look at how the layoffs had devastated Moore's hometown. Moore also hoped that his film would induce the government to come to the aid of the working people of Flint and other cities like it. But it was not to be.

The insidious economic downturn, so vividly foreshadowed in "Roger & Me", has permeated virtually every working class bastion and the recession gripping the nation is the worst since the 1930's. The unemployment rate is at an eight year high. Consumer confidence has sunk to an 18-year low. The deindustrialization of America and the accountability of business to communities, key issues that underpin "Roger & Me", are now at the forefront of our national agenda..

"Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint"

Since the release of "Roger & Me", Roger Smith has retired as Chairman of General Motors. GM has also announced that it will close yet another Flint plant by 1995, eliminating an additional 4,036 jobs. In outlining the planned "downsizing" of GM, new chairman Robert Stempel has said they will cut 74,000 employees nationwide by 1995, effectively reducing its work force to one-half of what it was in 1985.

But the out-of-work auto workers aren't the only ones hurting. Stempel announced that he was cutting Smith's retirement package by $100,000 a year, leaving the former chairman with a mere one million dollars annually to get by on. In "Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint", Michael Moore is once again on Smith's trail. Only this time with an offer to help out his "Roger & Me" "co-star."

Moore also revisits many Flint citizens featured in "Roger & Me". Ben Hamper, who has become known as the guy in the mental clinic playing basketball, has become a best-selling author ("Rivethead"). Deputy Fred has now expanded his business from evictions to car re-possessions. Rhonda Britton, better known as "the bunny lady," has become a mother and filed for bankruptcy. She has also moved further down the food chain, raising rats and mice as food for pet snakes.

When "Roger & Me" was released, Michael Moore gave all the people evicted in the film enough money to pay their rent for two years. Several have now left town. Those who remain are either out of work or doing odd jobs to get by. Unemployment in Flint is estimated to be as high as 23-percent. But things aren't bad everywhere. Employment is up at the local unemployment office. Fewer jobs (and more crime) have increased business for home security services and raised gun sales. And business is up at city soup kitchens.

Copyright 1992 Racine Labor

 

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