Fahrenheit 9/11

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"As much as some might try to marginalize this film as a screed against President George Bush, "F9/11" - as we saw last night - is a tribute to patriotism, to the American sense of duty - and at the same time a indictment of stupidity and avarice." - Roger Friedman, Fox News.com [1]

Fahrenheit 9/11 is a documentary by American filmmaker Michael Moore, which hit theaters on June 25 2004. It was been described by the Los Angeles Times as "an alternate history of the last four years on the U.S. political scene." [2] The film was awarded the Golden Palm by an international jury (where Americans were predominant) at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, the festival's highest award. The title of the film is a reference to Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451, as well as the September 11 attacks. In Bradbury's dystopian novel society has been dumbed down because broadcasting, especially television, has completely replaced print as communications media. The destruction of books means the end of critical thinking skills and fact checking.

Contents

Content

Carrying the tagline of "The temperature where freedom burns," the film deals with the causes and aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and with the subsequent occupation. In the film, Moore also describes the links between the Bush family and associated persons, and prominent Saudi Arabian families (including that of Osama Bin Laden), a relationship spanning three decades.

While these business links are not disputed, they are not widely known, and Moore has previously alleged that the Bush administration turned a blind eye to Saudi links to terrorist groups (most of the 19 hijackers were Saudis). In this vein, he also examines the government-sponsored evacuation of relatives of Osama Bin Laden after the attacks. One of his primary sources for these claims is the book House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, which Moore also advertises on his website.

In April 2004, Moore posted a note on his web site regarding the progress of the film. In it, he stated that he was obtaining footage directly from Iraq:

I currently have two cameramen/reporters doing work for me in Iraq for my movie (unbeknownst to the Army). They are talking to soldiers and gathering the true sentiment about what is really going on. They Fed Ex the footage back to me each week. [3]

Victory in Cannes

In April 2004 the film was selected to compete for the prestigious Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 57th Cannes Film Festival. After its first showing in Cannes in May of 2004, the film received a 20-minute standing ovation, which Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux declared "the longest standing ovation in the history of the festival." (According to french news the standing ovation was more than 23 minutes long).

On May 22, 2004 the film was awarded the Palme d'Or. It was the first documentary to win that award since Jacques Cousteau & Louis Malle's The Silent World in 1956. Just like his much publicized Oscar acceptance speech, Moore's speech in Cannes carried a courageous political message:

I have a sneaking suspicion that what you have done here and the response from everyone at the festival, you will assure that the American people will see this film. I can't thank you enough for that. You've put a huge light on this and many people want the truth and many want to put it in the closet, just walk away. There was a great Republican president who once said, if you just give the people the truth, the Republicans, the Americans will be saved. [...] I dedicate this Palme d'Or to my daughter, to the children of Americans and to Iraq and to all those in the world who suffer from our actions.

Some conservatives in the United States, such as Jon Alvarez of Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood (PABAAH), commented [4] that such an award could be expected from "the French" (see Anti-French sentiment in the United States); Moore responded: "There was only one French citizen on the jury. Four out of nine were American. [...] This is not a French award, it was given by an international jury dominated by Americans."

He also responded to claims that the award was political: "Quentin [Tarantino] whispered in my ear, 'we want you to know that it was not the politics of your film that won you this award. We are not here to give a political award. Some of us have no politics. We awarded the art of cinema, that is what won you this award and we wanted you to know that as a fellow filmmaker.'"

Quotes from the Palme d'Or jury press conference

The following comments were made at the Palme d'Or jury press conference. [5]

On the politics of the film:

  • Quentin Tarantino: Judging a film by its politics is a bad thing. If it wasn't some of the best filmmaking, then I would not have chosen it. [...] You can't strangle this movie with the title documentary. Michael Moore is f... with the format to bring us a movie-documentary-critical essay.
  • Tilda Swinton: One of the reasons it is radical in its politics is because of its relation to the media. It starts and ends with a question. It is sophisticated cinema. It wouldn't have served its political end if it wasn't a good piece of filmmaking. He has matured as a filmmaker since Bowling for Columbine. [...] It is not a film about Bush, nor Iraq but rather the system. In the words of Godard, ‘we spend so much time looking for the key to the problem; we need to begin looking for the lock.'
  • Benoît Poelvoorde: We had long and passionate debates. We put the politics aside so as to talk film. We are not here to give a morality lesson. Personally, I think that the Festival is very politically correct; on the other hand, it is hard to not be. [...] At the same time, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a political tract. His unique viewpoint is not a problem for me since we have the possibility to inform ourselves elsewhere and also listen to other opinions.

On awarding a documentary:

  • Kathleen Turner: We felt it was more than a documentary. We believe this film creates its own category and that's why it stands apart.
  • Tilda Swinton: The things Michael Moore says cannot be said on the media of TV. What he has to say has to be seen at the cinema. Who would have thought that cinema could get stretched this far.
  • Jerry Schatzberg: I had to get over the mix of genres, to open my mind to animations, documentaries along side fiction. [...] Michael Moore has given us a film that makes you think in different ways.
  • Edwidge Danticat: What struck me most was that I was laughing one minute, sobbing the next. I was taken to emotional heights. It let the voices speak for themselves, voices that are otherwise silent.

Bradbury steamed

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury criticised Moore for using "his" title without his permission [6]. "Michael Moore is a screwed a--hole, that is what I think about that case," Bradbury said according to a translation. "He stole my title and changed the numbers without ever asking me for permission." "[Moore] is a horrible human being – horrible human!" continued cranky Bradbury. Asked if he shares political veiws with Moore, Bradbury replied, "That has nothing to do with it. He copied my title; that is what happened. That has nothing to do with my political opinions." So Bradbury did not answer the question.

Since the titles of literary works cannot be protected by copyright or trademark, Bradbury's charges are just one of artistic courtesy.

The author also claimed Moore ruined Wesley Clark's chances of being president. But if Clarks chances were that fragile they would not have survived a tough nomination fight or the general election.

Release controversy

Originally planned for distribution by Icon Productions, Fahrenheit 9/11 was later picked up by Miramax after Icon released claims to the movie in May 2003, citing image conflicts while claiming the decision to be apolitical. Miramax had earlier distributed another film for Moore, The Big One, in 1997.

In May 2004, Moore asserted that Disney (the parent company of Miramax) was blocking the distribution of Fahrenheit 9/11 in North America, citing a contractual clause expressly permitting it to do so in such cases as a prohibitive budget or MPAA rating. Miramax executives disagreed. They stated that both Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, as well as Miramax were advised in May 2003 that Miramax would not be permitted to distribute the film. Disney representatives allege that Disney has the right to veto any Miramax films if it appears that their distribution would be counterproductive to the interests of the company.

For a major corporation Disney demonstrated considerable courage in backing the film. An unnamed Disney executive stated that the film is against Disney's interests not because of government business dealings, but instead to avoid being "dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle" and risk alienating customers. Emanuel stated that Michael Eisner, the chief executive of Disney, requested that he back out of the Miramax deal, expressing political concerns regarding the reactions of conservative politicians, especially tax breaks given to Disney properties (i.e., Disneyworld), in Florida, where Jeb Bush is governor. Moore acknowledged in a later CNN interview that Disney had told him that they did not want the film the previous year. Despite that, Disney continued to fund Fahrenheit 911 with six million dollars throughout the remaining year of production.

On May 28 2004, after more than a week of talks, Disney announced that Miramax film studio founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein had personally acquired the rights to the documentary from Walt Disney Co., after Disney, which owns Miramax, declined to distribute it. The film will be released under the newly formed company Fellowship Adventure Group, which will also take care of its home video distribution. Furthermore, a settlement was reached so that any profits from the film's distribution that go to Miramax or Disney will be donated to charity. The Weinsteins repaid their parent company for all costs of the film to date, estimated at around $6 million. They will also be responsible for all costs to finish the film and all marketing costs not paid by any third-party film distributors. Moore called the deal a "fair and equitable solution" and added that he was "grateful to them now that everyone who wants to see it will now have the chance to do so."

The film was released in the U.S. by a partnership of Lions Gate Films, IFC Films and the Fellowship Adventure Group. The Weinstein brothers personally financed and controlled distribution and marketing. Overseas rights have been sold to several other companies.

Attempted, unsuccessful counterblast to the movie

Those who challenge the rulign class can expect retribution. Moore became the target of a politically motivated documentary - Michael Moore Hates America (movie 2004). It is directed by a young independent film maker, Michael Wilson, and has recently been bailed out by Bush donor Brian R. Cartmell, a retired Internet entrepreneur with a background in Internet porn.

A new Republican group called Move America Forward created by the Russo Marsh & Rogers GOP consultation firm are now adding to the attack on Moore and his film. The organization which calls itself "non-partisan" claims that the film is anti-American and attacks the "U.S. military, the heroic men and women of the Armed Forces and our Commander-In-Chief"[7]. Further they claim that the goal of the film is "to undermine the war on terrorism".

Quotes by the director Moore

  • On the rising popularity of documentaries:
    Audiences love a good story, whether through fiction or non-fiction. I don't start out making a documentary but rather a good movie. Non-fiction is taking itself out of the ghetto and documentary filmmakers are finding new and inventive ways to tell their story. I'm pleased and I hope it continues.
  • On his impact as a filmmaker:
    The first impact I want is that audiences leave the theatre and say that was a good two hours of my time. Making this as a movie comes before the politics. If I wanted to make a political speech, I would have been a politician. I chose to be a filmmaker. I love movies.
  • On giving credit where credit is due:
    The film begins with them putting their makeup on. I consider them as actors. In fact, I forgot to thank my actors, thank you George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz...
  • The film takes its title from Ray Bradbury's novel "Fahrenheit 451," which refers to the temperature needed to burn books in an anti-Utopian society. Moore calls "Fahrenheit 9/11" the "temperature at which freedom burns."

Other Quotes

  • " Who cares? Nobody will see his movie. It is almost dead already. Never mind, nobody cares." -- Ray Bradbury, Author.

Extracts of Dialogues

  • Gordon Bobbit, Marketing Manager, Kalmar Inc (equipment supplier to US Army)
There's no other single area of the world today with the opportunity for business, new business, similar to the opportunity that's available today in Iraq.
  • Blaine Ober, President, High Protection Company (Atlanta-based Armored Vehicles)
Unfortunately, at least for the near term, we think it's going to be a good situation. Err, a dangerous situation. Good for business, bad for the people.
  • Michael Moore
Governor Bush. It's Michael Moore.
  • George W. Bush
Behave yourself, will you? Go find real work.

External links

  • Official homepage and trailer
  • Page 12 of [8] (PDF) contains the United States government position on the early departure of several Saudis after the 9/11 attacks, including family members of Osama bin Laden. This issue is reportedly discussed in the movie.
  • Excerpt on the Saudi flights from Craig Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud. Published by Salon.com.
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 wins Palme d'Or
  • "Disney Has Blocked the Distribution of My New Film" – published by Moore on his website, May 5, 2004
  • 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Melts Box Office Records (Zap2It.com, Mike Szymanski, 27 Jun 2004)
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 Breaks Records in Military Town (Fayetteville (NC) Observer, Matt Leclercq, 29 June 2004)
  • IMDb entry
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