Amid record profits in the 1980s, a series of decisions approved by General Motors CEO Roger Smith led to the closing of several GM plants in Flint, Michigan in order to take advantage of cheap labor in Mexico. The shuttering of the plants, starting in 1986, was documented by Michael Moore in his film Roger & Me, which debuted on this day in 1989. It chronicled the impact of General Motors leaving the Flint community, which left 30,000 people suddenly unemployed. Ultimately, Moore wished to bring Smith to Flint to show him what his moves had done to the people GM used to employ.
Throughout the film Moore, who is originally from Flint, speaks with assembly workers and residents, many of whom share a strong disdain for Smith, as well as executives and even celebrities, to gain perspective on the culture and workforce of Flint, AKA Vehicle City. The economic fallout of the closures is shown to devastate the community. This included a skyrocketing crime rate, which was highlighted when an ABC News van was stolen during a live broadcast.
Moore does have a brief interaction with Smith, but fails to bring him to Flint to bare witness to what was happening in the city. After the credits of the film, the screen displays the message “This film cannot be shown within the city of Flint,” followed by “All the movie theatres have closed.”
As of August 2015, conservative estimates put the number of GM employees in the Flint area at 7,200. Since Roger & Me offers a core commentary on the life and history of the people living and working in the auto industry, the Library of Congress has since selected it for preservation.