kART Across America: Michael Moore offers to help local documentarians

kart across america.jpg
No Shame Productions
Jeremy Make and Andy Raney stand with Christine, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang of vintage golf karts.
In December, we caught up with Andy Raney and Jeremy Make, the local co-creators of kART Across America, a documentary devoted to their 108-day trek across the United States in a fussy, broken-down golf kart named Christine. On Thursday, Michael Moore caught up with them -- on NPR. In a Talk of the Nation spot devoted to navigating the changes in Oscar rules for feature documentaries, the veteran filmmaker spoke to Make about the implications for artists with smaller financial backing.

In previous years, feature documentaries were selected for Oscar nomination via a group of small committees, meaning that a slight faction could stop a film from entering candidacy. Recently, however, Moore worked with a group of committee members to write a new set of rules for the selection process. With the latest structure, all 160 members of the feature documentary voting branch vote to select the nominees, and all 6,000 total voters vote on those five.

In the interview, Make discusses the realities behind kART Across America: It cost the two former roommates $20,000 and three years to travel the country asking people what their art is and then edit, produce and promote the results. The local documentary hit the Denver Starz Film Festival and will take to the Twin Cities on February 23, but its creators' pockets aren't deep enough to push it much further across the map.

"I'm just wondering," Make asked Moore. "What happens if you're not on the coasts?"

From here, the discussion turns to issues with the typical documentary distribution process, which both Moore and Make agree shouldn't be relegated to the coasts. Moore's feedback is extensive:

the point is is that I would love it if more Americans got to see - I see so many documentaries every year. People send me their documentaries. I run a film festival in Michigan. I watch hundreds of documentaries every year. And there is some great, great stuff out there.

And I just sit there, and I go oh my God, you know, what can I do to figure out how to get these things distributed. That's really the real discussion, and that's the discussion that we're going to have after this, at the Academy, is we need documentaries in movie theaters.

Now, what are we going to do to help make that happen? And that should be our real goal. This stuff with the rules, it's - all I'm trying to do is - I mean, I agree with the caller. I don't think it should just be the two coasts. That's just my personal opinion. The Academy doesn't agree with that. I think you should be able - if you were in the Denver Film Festival, you were in another film festival, that should qualify you, but that's my personal opinion.

I'm mainly concerned with the fact that when we say that these are the five nominees of the documentary branch, everybody in the documentary branch has been able to vote on it. And as I pointed out in the beginning, if you don't think there's something wrong with the system that has cut out Frederick Wiseman, the Maysles brothers, Errol Morris until recently, "Hoop Dreams," there's clearly something wrong here, and that's because it's been a close-knit thing where it's not been accessible to the entire branch and the entire Academy to vote for.

And these new rules are going to fix that, and I don't think we're going to have these problems in the future.

When asked if funding is the Denver duo's greatest concern, Make denies the priority in favor of distribution, simply getting their work to as many people as possible. But that takes money, which brings their section of the conversation full circle. It is at this point, then, that the greatest boon occurs: Moore asks Make for a copy of the film.

"First of all, the film sounds great, going across the country on a golf cart," Moore says. "You already had me with that. So if you want to send a copy of it to me, I will certainly see what I can do to get it in the hands of people who might be interested in distributing it."

To listen to or read the entire interview, visit NPR's website.

For more on the film: "kART Across America: What happens when two men travel the country in a golf kart named Christine" and "kART Across America explores the meaning of American art with insight and humor."


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