``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. With a laugh, he added: ``That’s why I wanted to watch this with you guys before I'm thrown to the lions.''
The two showings, along with three parties in Bellaire—a rural village about 240 miles northwest of Detroit near Moore’s lakeside home—raised about $25,000 for the Antrim County Democratic Party, chairman Jim McKimmey said. The film will be released nationwide on Oct. 2.
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 nearby Traverse City.
``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 who keeps a home near Bellaire in Michigan's northwestern Lower Peninsula.
There’s little doubt it 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.''
He was on friendly turf Saturday, constantly surrounded by fans seeking an autograph and a handshake.
``I thought it was a very powerful film,'' said former Republican Gov. William Milliken, who watched with his wife, Helen. ``I think it will have a positive effect on the current debate over health care.
``The message of the injustices that still persist and prevail in our society, that's a powerful message.''
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.''