Michael Moore’s new documentary ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′ delivers scathing indictment on Bush
(FinalCall.com) – The political heat has definitely turned up on the president with the record-breaking June 25 release of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a new documentary written, directed and produced by Michael Moore.
The filmmaker, who won a 2002 Oscar for “Bowling for Columbine,” delivers a scalding rebuke of President George Bush from one end of the reel to the other. Beginning with the stolen presidential election in 2000 and shouts of “Hail to the Thief” during Pres. Bush’s inauguration parade, the film follows the yellow brick road of propaganda that the Bush administration led the public along after the tragic attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001. It presents a piercing examination of the manipulation of 9/11 as a pre-text for amassing oil profits to the corporate cronies of the Bush family, the bin Laden family and Saudi royals–all at the expense of ignorant and unsuspecting poor, young soldiers looking for a job and an education, the rights of U.S. citizens clinging to patriotic hopes, and the lives of Iraqi civilians praying for peace. Scathingly emotional and cynically factual, Mr. Moore also blends in his personal condemnation of the president through a well-crafted selection of stock photos throughout illustrating Mr. Bush as a lazy, inept, incoherent and often dazed and confused man who has mishandled his mantle of leadership.
Pulling no punches on his attack on Pres. Bush, Mr. Moore admitted to Reuters in May that he hoped “Fahrenheit” would influence the presidential elections in November.
“Everybody knows who I am and where I stand,” he said. “Oh no, I’m not trying to pretend I’m being evenhanded with Bush.”
At the end of one celebrity preview screening on June 24, the filmmaker shared his optimism about the election, as a result of responses to his recent book tour.
“There has been a shift in this country. The average American is finally beginning to figure it out. We were duped [into supporting the invasion of Iraq],” he told them.
All 10 preview shows for celebrities and the film industry in California held for charity were sold out. Over the next three days, an estimated three million people flocked to the show its opening weekend. Sold out screens, long lines and standing ovations were reported across the country. The film grossed a hefty $21.8 million with only a limited release in 868 movie theaters nationwide, becoming the first political documentary to debut at the box office at No. 1.
But the pictorial mockery of the commander-in-chief of this country does not overshadow the factual strength of “Fahrenheit,” which is based largely on public record documents and reports. Proving that facts mean different things to different people, the sharpness of Mr. Moore’s criticism cut Walt Disney Co. deep enough to cause it to block the film’s distribution by its subsidiary Miramax Films. Disney executives claimed that the company could not take sides in a political debate.
However, Mr. Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, is quoted in reports asserting that the company feared the tax breaks for its theme park, hotels and businesses in Florida–where Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, is governor–would be jeopardized. According to Reuters, the heads of Miramax, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, bought the rights to the film from Disney for $6 million. Forming the Fellowship Adventure Group, the two then partnered with IFC Films and Lions Gate Films to distribute the documentary.
“I would have hoped by now that I would be able to put my work out to the public without having to experience the profound censorship obstacles I often seem to encounter,” Mr. Moore wrote on his website.
But, it is, ironically, such censorship that provides the basis for the movie’s title, a spin off the classic 1953 science fiction novel by Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451,” which tells the story of a society that bans all printed material out of the fear that people who can think for themselves are a threat. A large television screen on the wall becomes the source of everyone’s information and entertainment, and while officials do not force people to watch the screen, they willingly absorb themselves into it. The government also doles out drugs to pacify the people’s minds. Firemen track down non-conformists who have hidden books away, and upon finding the books, they burn them, hence the title. “Fahrenheit four five one is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and starts to burn,” explains the main fireman of the story in one scene.
Written after World War II, the book generally protests censorship, but particularly condemns the anti-intellectual climate of Nazi Germany and McCarthyism in 1950s America, and continues the genre of social criticism that feared the U.S. government would turn into a totalitarian regime that stifled individual thought and creativity. The apparent comparisons that Mr. Moore may be drawing with the current Bush administration perhaps rest at the root of the film’s acclaim–and its opposition.
“Fahrenheit” received the prestigious Palme d’Or, the top award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered. But despite the international fanfare, the domestic backlash has only just begun.
The conservative group, Citizens United, filed a complaint June 24 with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) charging that ads for “Fahrenheit” violate laws that regulate campaign finance. The rules ban ads, funded by corporate money, depicting presidential candidates 30 days before a primary and 60 days before an election. Since the Republican National Convention is scheduled Aug. 30-Sept. 2, the FEC may decide to pull all promotion commercials for Mr. Moore’s film July 31. During a press conference with the filmmaker, members of the Congressional Black Caucus pledged their support in fighting this complaint.
Mr. Moore contends that such a move by the FEC would be a violation of his First Amendment rights to advertise his movie. He maintains that he is not a member of the Democratic Party, but rather an Independent, and has not endorsed Democrat John Kerry for president.
He also says that the complaint is “a blatant attempt on the part of a right-wing, Republican-sponsored group to stop people from seeing my movie.”
To further discourage attendance, the movie was given an R rating for scenes of wounded, dead and desecrated bodies. Mr. Moore takes it all in stride–and has encouraged teenagers to “find your way into a theater to see this movie.”
“If the government believes it is OK to send slightly older teenagers to their deaths in Iraq, I think at the very least you should be allowed to see what they are going to draft you for in a couple of years,” he said.