Preview by: Jack Foley
SELDOM one to shy away from controversy, controversial director
Michael Moore has found himself at the centre of a massive storm
concerning his latest documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11.
On the eve of its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, the Oscar-winning
film-maker has posted a notice on his website announcing that
film studio, Disney, has refused to release the film in his home
Fahrenheit 9/11 was to be distributed by Miramax, a division
of Disney, but, according to reports last week, Disney has 'officially
decided to prohibit' Miramax from distributing the film.
The decision was taken by Disney due to the sensitive nature
of the documentary, which links US President, George Bush, with
powerful families in Saudi Arabia, including that of Osama Bin
It also attacks the president's actions before and after September
Moore, needless to say, is furious with the decision and has
questioned whether Disney should be allowed to make such a decision
in a supposedly 'free and open society'.
Miramax, which is run by Hollywood moguls, Harvey and Bob Weinstein,
had agreed to distribute the documentary, but Disney stepped in,
because it was not happy with the deal.
The company bought Miramax a decade ago but retained the rights
to block films it deemed against its interests, such as adult-rated
However, according to an article in the New York Times, Miramax
does not agree that this was a situation where that clause should
Moore, on his website, goes on to state: "For nearly a year,
this struggle has been a lesson in just how difficult it is in
this country to create a piece of art that might upset those in
"Some people may be afraid of this movie because of what
it will show.
"But there's nothing they can do about it now because it's
done, it's awesome, and if I have anything to say about it, you'll
see it this summer - because, after all, it is a free country."
However, there is an element of hope, as a spokesman for Miramax,
Matthew Hilzik, told the New York Times that the company is discussing
the issue with Disney with the hope of resolving the debate 'amicably'.
But Zenia Mucha, a Disney spokesman, said: "We advised both
[Moore's] agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film would
not be distributed. That decision stands."
The company even went on to accuse Mr Moore of engineering the
dispute for maximum publicity ahead of the Cannes Film Festival,
which opens this week.
But in typically confrontational fashion, Moore's agent, Ari
Emanuel, accused Disney and its chief executive, Michael Eisner,
of fearing a loss of tax breaks if it backs the film's release
in the US.
Fahrenheit 9/11 takes a frank, and subsequently controversial,
look at the US in the aftermath of September 11, and its title
comes from Ray Bradbury's novel, Fahrenheit 451, about
a future where books are burned and trivial information is prized
above knowledge and wisdom.
Moore first began using the Fahrenheit 9/11 title in February
2002, when he e-mailed fans to claim publisher HarperCollins had
delayed issuing his book Stupid White Men, because of its
criticism of Mr Bush.
It is the latest in a long line of battles the Oscar-winning
documentary film-maker has fought and won, including that for
his last feature, Bowling
For Columbine, which took a look at gun culture in the US.
It was that film which won him the Oscar, at which ceremony he
used his acceptance speech to criticise Mr Bush, calling him a
Moore first rose to notoriety, in 1990, with his film, Roger
and Me, which saw him pursue Roger Smith, chief executive of General
Motors, to quiz him about the consequences of the car giant sacking
hundreds of staff in his home town of Flint, Michigan.
There is some good news for UK fans of Moore, though, as they
will be able to see Fahrenheit 911 when it is released by distributor,
Optimum Releasing, in the Summer.
A spokesman for the company stated: "We feel it is important
that artists and commentators are always free to express their
UPDATE: Disney and the co-chiefs of Miramax Films are
nearing a deal that would allow Moore to find a new distributor
for Fahrenheit 9/11.
Miramax spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik, announced that Disney had
agreed to sell the rights to the film to Miramax co-chief executives,
Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who could then go out and find a new
A spokesman for the Moore camp has yet to comment, although Disney
spokeswoman, Zenia Mucha, confirmed: "Disney has offered
to sell Miramax's interest in the film to either a third party
or Harvey and Bob."