Just Above Sunset
June 27, 2004: If Michael Moore had any self-control... The film he didn't make.

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Just for a change of pace I sometimes take advantage of my high-speed internet connection and listen to live streaming radio from Paris – TSF is a fine jazz station.  CherieFM provides pop crap while NovaPlanet provides world, hip-hop and techno-trance, if that’s you thing.  News?  The 13h00 and 20h00 streaming video newscasts from TF1 are amusing.  And France2 is reliable. 

What I missed, since I don’t indulge myself in this stuff that often, is a film originally made for the French public broadcaster, France 2, a documentary they premiered on television last Friday (June 18).  Curiously the film opened theatrically in France on Wednesday (June 23) – which doesn’t happen anywhere that often.  A made-for-television documentary, already aired, sent to movie theaters where folks have to pay to see it?  How odd. 

Jean-Francois Lepetit, who runs Flach Film, the folks who produced the movie, says, "We wanted to give the film a wider audience." I guess nobody watches France2.  Just like CBS here. 

Will people go to theaters to see what was on television the week before?  Probably so.  It’s a George Bush thing. 

This seems to be a film that might be called a thinking man’s “Fahrenheit 911” - the film Michael Moore might have made if he were, say, dispassionate.  Moore isn’t.  No kidding. 

The film is "Le Monde Selon Bush" (The World According to Bush) – and it’s ninety minutes of material put together by William Karel.  Karel is a Tunisian-born Swiss fellow who insists he "adores" America, but chose to make the film because "it's a true story stranger than fiction."

Yep, we’ve heard that before. 

If you also have a high-speed internet connection you can see trailers for this film here – and the France2 “teaser” used to promote the film.  The clips show lots of folks talking about George Bush in English with subtitles in French.  (This is the reverse of going to see French art films in Manhattan, of course.  Quite odd.  Once, while living in the West Indies, I saw the old Errol Flynn “Robin Hood” dubbed into Spanish with English subtitles – and out here in Los Angeles on local television you sometimes catch Hong Kong martial arts movies, or Korean soap operas, dubbed from the Asian language into Spanish with English subtitles.  Linguistic surprises everywhere, no?)

Anyway, this is what the Hollywood Reporter (now owned by Reuters) has to say about this other film critically examining Bush and his crew. 

French Filmmaker Takes Own Stab at Bush


PARIS (Hollywood Reporter) - When "Fahrenheit 9/11" was selected for the Cannes Film Festival, another documentary about George W.  Bush was waiting in the wings in case Michael Moore's film wasn't ready in time. 

"The organizers were keen to include our film in the Official Selection but felt it was politically incorrect to have two anti-Bush documentaries at Cannes," says Jean-Francois Lepetit, whose Flach Film produced "Le Monde Selon Bush" (The World According to Bush). 

Directed by seasoned documentary maker William Karel, the 90-minute film could scarcely be more different to Moore's Palme d'Or winner.  Karel's style is sober, eschewing humor and stunts in favor of heavyweight interviews. 

"Le Monde" is a scathing attack on Bush's first 1,000 days in power, and chronicles the first family's alleged links with the oil and arms industries. 

… Inspired by journalist-author Eric Laurent's two books on the Bush administration, "Le Monde" is the fifth film by Karel examining American political power. 

… Spending more than eight months battling "the veil of secrecy" surrounding those in office, Karel managed 26 detailed interviews, with personalities including Secretary of State Colin Powell, neo-conservative Richard Perle, former CIA directors James Woosley and David Kay, writer Norman Mailer, academics and journalists. 

"I was amazed how willing some people were to be interviewed, straight after they had left government and were no longer bound by secrecy laws," Karel says. 

The EUR500,000 ($605,000) film covers many topics, including how the "Christian right Israeli lobby" has influenced U.S.  policy in the Middle East and how the Sept.  11 attack gave a "clueless" Bush his raison d'etre -- the "crusade" against terrorism, the "false pretext" under which the second war on Iraq was waged, and the "big lie" linking Saddam Hussein to Sept.  11.  The film illustrates how George H.W.  Bush, first as vice president and then as president from 1988 to 1992, armed and financed Saddam Hussein.  The Bush family's alleged ties to the Bin Laden clan and Saudi Arabia are also examined. 


Moore covers much of this. 

How is this film so different?  It seems to be a matter of tone. 


Karel insists his film is not a French diatribe against America but rather a gathering of eyewitness accounts from Americans who lived through the times.  "To think President Richard Nixon was impeached because of three tapes!" Karel exclaims.  He hopes the film will be seen in the United States.  "None of my films have made it to the U.S., but I'm hopeful that this one will," he says. 


Don’t hold your breath, Bill.  Getting Moore’s film to market over here was difficult enough. 


And the on-the-ground report from our correspondent in Paris, Ric Erickson of MetropoleParis?  His email comments to us:


This film was given heavy advance promotion on the France-2 and France-3 channels, but was probably handicapped by its unusual program slot on France-2 at 22:35 (10:35 pm) on Friday, 18. June.  The Euro Foot match between Italy and Sweden was on France-3 until 22:40.  Not much else interesting was on the other 50-odd channels, but Friday night is not a big TV night for anybody outside of hospitals and prisons.


I did not see the film because I do not watch TV on Fridays. To tell the truth, I forgot all about it. There's nothing in Saturday's paper about the audience score, and the whole thing would have been forgotten by Monday.


I have often noticed that some documentaries made in Europe rely heavily on interviews with the players involved - such as the think-tankers who support George Bush. Sometimes they say truly odd things, perhaps because they believe no American will ever see these shows.  They can be quite candid.  It's hard to believe they would say the same things to an American public.


But, as a viewer here, how is one to tell whether statements made in European documentaries are not exactly the same of statements made to US TV?  Thus, original statements made only for European consumption can be revealing, but how newsworthy they may be is difficult to discern.  We don't see many US-made documentaries over here, unless we have cable-TV with networks like CNN.  Since I don't have cable, I have no idea what CNN broadcasts.


If the film opened in cinemas here on Wednesday, I haven't seen any posters for it. It's not mentioned as one of the week's openers in Wednesday's Le Parisien.


Excerpt - The film is "Le Monde Selon Bush" (The World According to Bush) - and it's ninety minutes of material put together by William Karel.   Karel is a Tunisian-born Swiss fellow who insists he "adores" America, but chose to make the film because "it's a true story stranger than fiction."


Yes.  There are a lot of us - most likely most Europeans - who have a genuine affection for the United States and its culture.  Or, rather, for the philosophy that it is based on.  What do you do if you think you brother is being an idiot?  Do you pretend it isn't happening?  No, you try and straighten the dude out.  He's your brother after all.  Family.  You pitch in and criticize, wheedle; hope for the best.  It's possible that there are more US-fans in Europe than there are in the United States.  If we could vote, no Bush would get a dogcatcher's job in Texas.


The Europeans like us more than we like ourselves?  An intriguing idea.


In any event, the France Bush film will not be seen here.  We’ll have to make do with Moore’s.


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