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Fahrenheit 9/11 - Breaks UK opening record for a documentary



Story by: Jack Foley

MICHAEL Moore’s controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 has followed up its historic US Box Office run by breaking UK records for a documentary.

The film took £1.3m over its opening weekend, according to its distributors, which also puts it well on course to break the record for a documentary set recently by mountaineering film, Touching the Void, which amassed £2.58m in UK receipts.

The Palme d’Or-winner has already amassed $80m (£45m) in the US and Canada, where it became the first documentary to top the box office, and continues to fare well in the face of stiff blockbuster opposition.

The documentary takes a look at America in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and directly attacks George Bush's war on Iraq and his election victory. It also alleges business links between the Bush family and several prominent Saudi Arabian businessmen, including those linked with Osama Bin Laden.

And it claims to feature the first footage of American troops abusing Iraqi prisoners of war.

The film has generated massive controversy in America, where Moore accused original distributors, Disney, of attempting to block its release, amid claims that the White House had attempted to stop it from being made.

Yet its success in the UK represents a massive triumph for distributors, Optimum Releasing, who were only too keen to push it onto 132 screens, where it has reportedly received standing ovations at certain screenings.

The global success of the film is likely to heap more pressure on the beleaguered US president, not to mention his political allies, and could well have, as Moore predicts, some bearing on the US presidential election in November.

The UK's previous best opening weekend for a documentary was also an effort by Moore, Bowling for Columbine, which took £158,000 in its first three days, and which went on to win an Oscar.

Yet, while it has drawn largely positive reviews from critics on both sides of the Atlantic, for the way in which it dares to stand-up and pose questions of the Bush administration, it has also been accused of being unashamedly one-sided, and nothing more than Michael Moore propaganda.

According to trade paper, the Hollywood Reporter, Illinois-based GKC Theaters and Iowa-based Fridley Theaters have even decided to not screen the film in protest at its content, while GKC Theaters president, Beth Karasotes, pledged not to show Moore's film as long as the US remained at war.

In a further backlash to Moore’s stance, right-wing film-maker, Mike Wilson, has announced plans to release his own documentary, Michael Moore Hates America.

While blockbuster actor, Will Smith, whose new action movie, I, Robot, is due to open in America this Friday ((july 16, 2004), recently revealed that he had called the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to offer his services in promoting America.

Commenting in a recent Reuters interview, the popular star confirmed: "I just basically offered my services. I don't know what I can do. I just know that America is a better place than the reputation we're getting internationally right now."

Although his comments were not made in direct relation to the controversy surrounding Moore’s film, they do come at a time when America-bashing, both nationally and internationally, seems to be coming more commonplace.

Smith, however, revealed that he had spent a lot of time, recently, with celebrities such as Tom Cruise and U2 singer, Bono, who often lend their support to causes far outside their creative realm.

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