"Fahrenheit 9/11 could light fire under Bush"
Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is without doubt the most flaming-hot ticket at the Cannes film festival. And with good reason: Moore hopes that it will bring down the US government.
The American film-maker has hitherto kept a tight lid on the contents of the documentary, saying only that it includes evidence of alleged links between the Bush and Bin Laden families. However, in two appearances in Cannes at the weekend before its premiere today, he revealed that the movie contains shocking footage from Iraq.
Yesterday he said: "When you see the movie you will see things you have never seen before, you will learn things you have never known before. Half the movie is about Iraq - we were able to get film crews embedded with American troops without them knowing that it was Michael Moore. They are totally fucked."
On Saturday he said: "The film is only partly to do with the Bin Ladens and Bush. I was able to send three different freelance film crews to Iraq. Soldiers had written to me to express their disillusionment with the war. It's a case of our own troops not being in support of their commander-in-chief."
He said that at the few low-key preview screenings that have already taken place in the midwest "the reactions were overwhelming. People who were on the fence - undecided voters - suddenly weren't on the fence any more."
Moore was unequivocal about his desire to do everything in his power to help oust President George Bush in this November's elections.
"We thought, 'We cannot leave this to the Democrats this time to fuck it up and lose.'" He wants, he said, to "inspire people to get up and vote in November."
There has already been a complicated saga over the distribution of the film. At the start of the month it became clear that Disney, the parent company of Miramax - which made Fahrenheit 9/11 - was refusing to distribute it in the US.
The film currently has distribution, according to Moore, in every other country except Taiwan.
After a baffling series of rumours and counter-rumours last week, it was revealed that Disney was allowing Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who run Miramax, to buy back their interest in the film so they could seek an alternative distributor. After a fortnight, none has yet been found.
The reasons for Disney's refusal, Moore claimed, were purely political, aimed at delaying the film's release and thus preventing Americans from seeing the explosive material it contains before the election.
"The past year we knew that Michael Eisner [CEO of Disney] was not happy about Miramax making the film but they kept on sending the money every month," Moore said on Saturday. "At the end of April they sent an executive to look at the film. They had a board meeting and five days later they decided not to distribute it, because of its political content."
Yesterday he said: "That's the reason for the blocking: so that Americans don't see it before the election."
He added: "I won't let that happen, and neither will Harvey [Weinstein]. People will see this film, by hook or by crook. I will get this out if it means breaking the law or committing an act of civil disobedience."
Eisner has previously denied that there was anything sinister about Disney's decision to block distribution. "We're such a nonpartisan company," he said. "[People] do not look for us to take sides."
The contract between Disney and Miramax states that Disney can refuse to distribute a film in certain cases, for instance if it has an NC-17 rating - the US equivalent of an 18 certificate. Under such circumstances Miramax has in the past found alternative distribution - for Dogma, a 1999 satire on the Catholic church, and Larry Clark's Kids, eventually released in 1995, which shocked many with its frank depiction of sex among teenagers.
Moore is clearly furious with the company. "I have a lot to say about Disney. It is very dangerous to give someone like me a peek behind the curtain. I will tell all as soon as the [distribution] negotiations have ended," he said on Saturday.
The film-maker is also unhappy with the way the controversy has been handled in the media.
"The press have said, 'Isn't it great for the movie?' But the last two times this happened - with Dogma and Kids - you only have to look at the box office to see that the controversy didn't help. No film-maker wants this to happen.
"I don't like the message this sends, which is, 'Don't even think of making a movie like [Fahrenheit 9/11] - it won't get distributed.' This is a chilling effect it will have. Five men and one woman [the Disney board] make a decision about what Americans can see. This is not a sign of an open and healthy society."
Moore's position has not met with universal sympathy. A piece in the Los Angeles Times last week accused his last film, Bowling for Columbine, of being "a torrent of partial truths, pointed omissions and deliberate misimpressions" and called him a "virtuoso of fictions".
But Moore has no plans to shut up shop just yet. He is planning films "on the Israelis and Palestinians, and the oil industry and lack of oil we are going to be faced with".