How did 'Waiting for 'Superman's' ' Davis Guggenheim become the right wing's favorite liberal filmmaker?
No one is a more well-credentialed progressive than Davis Guggenheim, who directed Al Gore's influential global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," as well as produced a dramatic short about Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. But with his new documentary, "Waiting for 'Superman,' " which opened today in selected cities across the country, Guggenheim has become conservative medialand's favorite new filmmaker.
Why? Because "Waiting for 'Superman,' " which has been getting good reviews all across the political spectrum, ably makes the case that the nation's children have been betrayed by teachers' unions while portraying charter schools in a hugely flattering light, two concepts that nicely dovetail with the prevailing sentiment in the conservative community.
So the Wall Street Journal, whose editorial page has mocked Gore and any scientist who raised the alarm about global warming for years, has given Guggenheim and his new film a firm embrace. In an op-ed piece this week, William McGurn calls "Superman" a "stunning liberal expose of a system that consigns American children who most need a decent education to our most destructive public schools."
Guggenheim is getting similar treatment from the New York Post, Rupert Murdoch's arch-conservative tabloid. Post film critic Kyle Smith heaped scorn on Guggenheim's "Inconvenient Truth," mocking the props Gore used in his onscreen lecture. Smith wrote: "He assesses the trade-off between the economy and the environment with the kind of buffoonery you'd expect in a Marxist comic book, displaying a cartoon of a scale with Earth on one side and bars of gold on the other. Why doesn't he get specific and replace the 'gold bar' side of the scale with, say, a $50,000 tax on SUVs?"
But when it comes to Guggenheim's "Superman," Smith is all smiles, describing the film on his blog as "one of the best films of the year." In his review he calls the movie a "heartbreaking yet thrillingly hopeful documentary [where] adults are finally starting to notice how badly kids have been betrayed by teachers unions."
If you're a documentary filmmaker, you're happy to get rave reviews from any source, since you need all the good PR you can get. But I find it revealing, when it comes to the liberal vs. conservative partisan divide, that whenever Michael Moore releases a new documentary promoting a liberal cause, conservatives are quick to bash him for being a left-wing propagandist. But when Guggenheim makes a film offering wholehearted support for a conservative cause, liberal critics have written just as many glowing reviews as conservative ones. (The film has a sky-high 93 fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.) What does that tell you about who's got the most open mind here?
Photo: Davis Guggenheim at a press conference in Toronto for the film "Waiting for 'Superman.' " Credit: Warren Toda / European Pressphoto Agency