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May 23, 2004 - 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Wins Palme D'Or Award at Cannes













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The weekend, mid-day Saturday Los Angeles time, the French outraged America again, or at least the half of America that ardently supports Bush, the current war in Iraq, the Patriot Act and our current foreign policy of strength through humiliating others – and you can fill in the rest.  One assumes Bill O’Reilly on his Fox News show will go ballistic, and perhaps call for another boycott of French goods.  But as you will see, his side is winning in the matter of this film.

 

Here are the basic facts of the matter from Reuters -

 

'Fahrenheit 9/11' Wins Palme D'Or Award at Cannes

Joelle Diderich and Paul Majendie, Sat May 22, 2004 04:11 PM ET

 

CANNES, France (Reuters) - U.S. director Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," a savage indictment of President Bush's handling of Iraq and the war on terror, won the top award at the Cannes film festival Saturday.

 

"I have this great hope that things are going to change," said Moore after tearing into Bush with his emotion-charged documentary in the run-up to November's presidential election.

 

The Oscar-winning director, overwhelmed by the standing ovation given to his Palme d'Or best film award, said: "I want to make sure if I do nothing else for this year that those who have died in Iraq have not died in vain."

 

Moore was the big winner on a night otherwise dominated by Asian films, which took three top prizes to show they are now a major force in world cinema.

 

Moore's diatribe focuses on how America and the White House reacted to the September 11, 2001, hijacking attacks and traces links between the Bush family and prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden.

 

It then switches to the war in Iraq, with graphic footage of Iraqi wounded and prisoners being abused by American troops.

 

"Fahrenheit 9/11" had already whipped up an international media storm after the Walt Disney Co barred its Miramax film unit from releasing such a politically polarizing work in a U.S. election year.

 

Miramax is negotiating to buy back distribution rights from Disney in the hope of releasing the film in the U.S. in July.

 

Two years ago, the director's anti-gun lobby documentary "Bowling for Columbine" won a special prize at Cannes and went on to gross $120 million worldwide and win him an Oscar.

 

Thanking the jury headed by cult director Quentin Tarantino, Moore said: "You will ensure that the American people will see this movie." …

 

There’s much more detail should you care to click on the link.

 

Is the film any good?

 

Some of us couldn’t get to Cannes this week, and this reporter is far down the road from Beverly Hills, the official “sister city” of Cannes, a few miles to the east in this low rent district.  No way to see it here in Hollywood or anywhere over in the California Cannes.  Heck, no one in the United States may be allowed to see this film anyway, but it seems to be at hit at that film festival on the Riviera.

Here, courtesy of the BBC are representative clips from those reviewers who have not been protected by Michael Eisner (previously explained at the end of the column here - May 9, 2004 - Things spinning down, as if it matters...).

 

What's remarkable here isn't Moore's political animosity or ticklish wit. It's the well-argued, heartfelt power of his persuasion. Even though there are many things here that we have already learned, Moore puts it all together. It's a look back that feels like a new gaze forward.

- Washington Post

This is an angry film about greed, the abuse of power, the betrayal of the people by their leaders. Moore says he hopes to keep it up to date between now and a pre-election US release in July - assuming Miramax find a distributor to their liking. Republicans will be infuriated by the film's simple emotional message. The rest of us will hope it reaches as wide a congregation as The Passion Of The Christ.

- The Independent

Moore's big omission is Tony Blair and the UK. He has a clever pastiche of the opening title-sequence of the old TV western Bonanza, with Bush and Blair mocked up to look like cowboys. But in a section about the ramshackle "coalition of the willing" which was supposed to lend international legitimacy to the invasion, there is no mention of the part played by this country. This can only be because of Moore's insistence on America's international isolation and arrogance. It's a strange, skewed perspective.

- The Guardian

Fahrenheit 9/11 may be seen as another example of the liberal media preaching to its own choir. But Moore is such a clever assembler of huge accusations and minor peccadilloes that the film should engage audiences of all political persuasions.

- Time Magazine

It's a storming work of tempered polemic, gripping from start to last, that uses the war in Iraq as a starting point for offering a largely convincing class-based analysis of contemporary America. Small wonder that few US distributors want to touch it.

- Daily Telegraph

There are still some classic Moore moments here, notably when squirming US congressmen are invited to sign up their own children to fight in Iraq. The director has always been strongest on the cusp between anger and humour, but there are simply too few such inspired episodes here. Fahrenheit 9/11 hits enough of its targets to qualify as an important and timely film. But it should have been a smart bomb, and it feels more like a blunt instrument.

- The Times (UK)

Told with passion and cutting sarcasm, the film has a good deal of the Moore trademarks, from a deft use of various television and pop culture clips to embarrassing encounters with the great and the good. Moore is mischievous as ever - at one point he tries to convince members of the Congress to encourage their children to enlist and fight in the war. The irony and childish iconoclasm are still there but this is a film in which an adult sense of anger and frustration also dominate.

- Screendaily

Its title notwithstanding, Michael Moore has delivered a film rather less incendiary than might have been expected - or wished for by his fans - in Fahrenheit 9/11. The sporadically effective documentary trades far more in emotional appeals than in systematically building an evidence-filled case against the president and his circle.

- Variety

What Moore seems to be pioneering here is a reality film as an election-year device. The facts and arguments are no different than those one can glean from political commentary or recently published books on these subjects. Only the impact of film may prove greater than the printed word. So the real question is not how good a film is Fahrenheit 9/11 - it is undoubtedly Moore's weakest - but will a film help to get a president fired?

- The Hollywood Reporter

 

Well, one is tempted to say… we report, you decide.

Not this time.

Oh, and a bonus –


"But speaking here in my capacity as a polished, sophisticated European as well, it seems to me the laugh here is on the polished, sophisticated Europeans. They think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they've taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities." - Christopher Hitchens on MSNBC "Scarborough Country," 18 May 2004

 

That elicited a response from our friend Emma, the Australian woman who has lived in France for decades -

 

Well all I can say is that Chris Hitchens is a wanker!

 

Vive le Monsieur Michael Moore!!

 

Ah, Australians are so direct in their language.

 

The current Hollywood buzz?  No way this new film will get screened in the US before the election.  The Weinstein brothers (Miramax Studios) now want to buy the film back from Disney Studios and distribute it themselves, and Disney tentatively agreed.  But late this week one sees in the trades that Disney studios in a surprise move told Miramax the price was now a whole lot more than what they had agreed to verbally.  Pay the new price now or it stays in the can (that’s Hollywood talk, not potty-mouth, as it refers to the thin tins that hold the feel reels).  Miramax is scrambling to line up funding but it doesn’t look good.  Disney tells them if the miss they deadline the price goes way up again.  Michael Eisner, Disney CEO, plays hardball.

 

The film hits Bush hard and the Saudi folks even harder.  Note that Disneyland Europe (outside Paris) has a new majority owner – the Saudi government trust fund (Kingdom Trust).  One might think….  No, couldn’t be.

 

It may come down to George Soros, the Hungarian Jewish liberal billionaire who now funds Move-On and may step in, in a bidding war with the heirs of King Faisal supporting the pro-Bush Likud-loving Eisner.  A strange world….

 

Here’s more –

 

Frank Rich’s review – and he is the media critic for the New York Times.

 

Beautiful minds and ugly truths

International Herald Tribune - Friday, May 21, 2004 (Paris) / New York Times – Sunday, May 23, 2004 (NYC)

 

Rich seems angry and opens with a famous quote from the President’s mother.

 

"But why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it's gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose?  Or, I mean, it's, it's not relevant.  So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?  And watch him suffer." - Barbara Bush on "Good Morning America," March 18, 2003.

She needn't have worried.  Her son wasn't suffering.  In one of the several pieces of startling video exhibited for the first time in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," we catch a candid glimpse of President George Bush about 36 hours after his mother's breakfast TV interview - minutes before he makes his own prime-time TV address to take the nation to war in Iraq.  He is sitting at his desk in the Oval Office.  A makeup woman is doing his face.  And Bush is having a high old time.  He darts his eyes about and grins, as if he were playing a peek-a-boo game with someone just off-camera.  He could be a teenager goofing with his buds to relieve the passing tedium of a haircut.

"In your wildest dreams you couldn't imagine Franklin Roosevelt behaving this way 30 seconds before declaring war, with grave decisions and their consequences at stake," said Moore in an interview before his new documentary's premiere at Cannes last Monday.  "But that may be giving him credit for thinking that the decisions were grave."  As we spoke, the consequences of those decisions kept coming.  The premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11" took place as news spread of the assassination of a widely admired post-Saddam Iraqi leader, Ezzedine Salim, blown up by a suicide bomber just a hundred yards from the entrance to America's "safe" headquarters in Baghdad, the Green Zone.

Whatever you think of Moore, there's no question he's detonating dynamite here.  From a variety of sources - foreign journalists and broadcasters (like Britain's Channel Four), freelancers and sympathetic American TV workers who slipped him illicit video - he supplies war-time pictures that have been largely shielded from our view.  Instead of recycling images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, once again, Moore can revel in extended new close-ups of the president continuing to read "My Pet Goat" to elementary school students in Florida for seven long minutes after learning of the attack.  Just when Abu Ghraib and the savage beheading of Nicholas Berg make us think we've seen it all, here is yet another major escalation in the nation-jolting images that have become the battleground for the war about the war. …

 

Click on the link for a great deal of detail on what is in the film, as you probably won’t be able to see it anytime soon.

 

Well, when the news of the award was broadcast in France, Emma, being there, sent this:

 

Rather unexpected but thanks to Tarantino and the rest of the jury in Cannes, common sense has seen the light of day...

 

Well Done Moore - you deserve it!

 

Emma in France where the Droits de l'homme rule the day!

(although I thought the last Cannes entry of two years ago by Moore better but then who cares!)

 

And almost at the same time I received this from Ric in Paris -

 

22.05 - Big Surprise!

 

Bonjour Alan -

 

Michael Moore has just been interviewed on France-2 TV-news. The jury of the Cannes Film Festival 2004 awarded the top Palme d'Or to his documentary 'Fahrenheit 911' during the award ceremony today.  This is the first time a documentary has ever been awarded the top prize.

 

Moore said, "certainly," when asked if he thought that the film would be shown in the United States. He said he was positive that the film would be in US cinemas this summer. He said that Americans have a 'right' to see it.

 

regards, ric

 

My view is a little different.

 

Moore is an optimist - and he may think US folks have a “right” to see his film.

 

Yeah, yeah.  Moore’s pressing for a July 4th US release date - or at least before the November election - and that doesn’t seem at all likely.  See below. 

 

Bob and Harvey Weinstein (Miramax) are still tying to get Disney to agree to a price - any price.  Note also Icon Productions, Mel Gibson’s company, seems earlier to have tried to buy the distribution rights from Disney - but suddenly backed out (Moore says they probably got a call from the White House).  That’s when Miramax stepped in and tried.  The plot thickens.  And Disney is holding the film now - grinning.  They won’t budge.  Disney does make sure Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson get plenty of exposure on their radio outlets.  But this films isn’t going anywhere near a projection booth soon.

 

Moore says 9/11 faces exile

Desson Thomson, The Washington Post , Friday, May 21, 2004 12:22 AM

 

Here’s the gist…

 

CANNES, France - Filmmaker Michael Moore, director of the politically charged Fahrenheit 9/11, whose July 4 release has been blocked by Walt Disney, publicly lamented Sunday that time is running out for him to show the film in time for the presidential election.

 

He also suggested that fear of provoking the White House is scaring off any potential new distributors.

 

The film, which is in competition for the prestigious Golden Palm award here, makes strong contentions about President Bush’s links to powerful families in Saudi Arabia, including that of Osama bin Laden, and also criticizes the President’s decision to go to war in Iraq.

 

Although the movie has been sold to markets around the world, its fate in America remains uncertain. Disney, which owns the film through its specialty division, Miramax Film Corp., blocked the film’s intended release for July 4.

 

Speaking at a public round-table here, convened by Variety, Moore took issue with recent Disney statements that the studio had dropped the film a year ago.

 

Disney money was flowing to the film until recently, he said. The decision to stop the film’s July release, he continued, was made in late April when a “low-level executive” saw it and reported misgivings to Disney chief executive Michael Eisner. Miramax owners Bob and Harvey Weinstein are currently negotiating with Disney to buy the rights and release the picture independently or through a third party.

 

… Should those talks fail, Moore is hoping that other distributors will step in. But his insistence that any present or future distributor must release it on July 4 or, failing that, before the election, has scared off some potential distributors, he said.

 

… Moore scoffed at Eisner’s contention that the film was dropped to avoid controversy in a political year, pointing out that the company continues to support such politically conservative figures as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson through some of its media outlets.

 

Moore also claimed that an unnamed individual with ties to the Republican Party had intimidated Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, which had agreed to distribute the movie before Miramax took over. Icon subsequently backed out, so Harvey Weinstein stepped in and took over. When Disney blocked the release, Moore found himself without a summer date, or even a distribution deal in the United States, he said.

 

Worldwide rights for the film have been sold through other distributors almost everywhere except Hong Kong and Taiwan, Moore said. “So everyone else in the world can see this movie except Americans.” …

 

Again, the link will provide more detail.

 

And as I was formatting this page I received another item from Ric in Paris.

 

22.05 - Stop Moore!

 

Bonsoir Alan –

 

Moore seemed surprised - on TV - when the announcement was made.

 

Either that, or he is a good actor.  By the time (no more than a hour later, I'd guess) that he spoke live on France-2 TV news, I imagine that the implications of the award were percolating around in his brain.

 

The United States already has a serious credibility problem.  It seems unlikely that there will be no US distributor for an internationally acclaimed film.  Radio France-Info said this morning that Cannes' winners were guaranteed a good life at the box office.

 

And in the United States, box office is what counts.  Tonight they are probably lining up to secure distribution rights.  Don't be surprised if Disney steps back in.  Money could speak where moral 'courage' fails, or moral fear prevails.

 

Besides, the bootleggers have probably set their pirate DVD copiers on full rotation tonight, confident to make a pile off a Cannes winner.  No Disney is going to pass this up.  What would its stockholders say?  Fire Eisner!

 

This is Radio Cynical reporting from sleezy Paris.

 

Ha!  Ric, by the way, has for years kept his Paris website, MetropoleParis, relatively free of all cynicism.

 

Actually, and curiously, everyone has been calling of Michael Eisner to be fired for many months now.  Disney investors have not been at all happy with the way he has run the place – particularly with the underperforming ABC Television unit.

 

If he can make a ton of money for the studio by reversing himself on this and releasing the film, will he become a hero?

 

 

____

 

Footnote:

 

Eisner, or anyone who chooses to distribute the film, may have trouble if the folks who go to movies agree with Variety and The Wall Street Journal.

 

Michael Moore Returns
Is Fahrenheit 9/11 Any Good?
By Ben Williams - SLATE.COM

Updated Friday, May 21, 2004, at 1:57 PM PT 

 

Michael Moore's muckraking movie about George Bush's war on terror still doesn't have a U.S. distributor, but critics at Cannes got a peek earlier this week.  Most agree with the New York Times' assessment: Fahrenheit 9/11 "offers few new revelations."  But they're still impressed by the scope of Moore's argument.  The Los Angeles Times calls this an "ambitious" and "complex" "alternate history of the last four years," and the Washington Post says, "Moore puts it all together.  It's a look back that feels like a new gaze forward."  Time even thinks, wishfully, that the film will "engage audiences of all political persuasions."  But the Wall Street Journal, not swayed by such naive sentimentality, blasts the film as "mostly a rehash of the conspiracy theories in his book Dude, Where's My Country?"   And a familiar knock on Moore is repeated by Variety, which dismisses him as "an inadequate prosecuting attorney" whose "approach is scattershot and manipulative."

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Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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