'Brits, are you embarrassed?':Moore unveils Fahrenheit 9/11 with Blair jibe

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The Independent Culture

The Oscar-winning American filmmaker, Michael Moore, lashed out at Tony Blair as he unveiled his new documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, in Cannes yesterday.

The Oscar-winning American filmmaker, Michael Moore, lashed out at Tony Blair as he unveiled his new documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, in Cannes yesterday.

Moore, whose film about the US war on terror features unseen footage of American soldiers hooding and mistreating Iraqi detainees, said that he was astonished that Mr Blair supported George Bush.

He said: "The problem is the White House and not No 10 Downing Street although I have to say that what has also sort of depressed me about Tony Blair is he knows better. The one thing you can say about Blair is he's smart. What's he doing hanging out with a guy like George Bush? That's the weirdest couple I've ever seen.

"I know he misses his old buddy Bill Clinton - but to settle for this? Brits, aren't you embarrassed?"

But Moore said that Mr Blair had been "let off lightly" in the film because he wanted to concentrate on Mr Bush. The British Prime Minister's principal appearance in the two-hour diatribe is in a scene set to the music of the Western series Bonanza in which Mr Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, along with Mr Blair, are depicted as cowboys.

Moore said that he expected the film would shock Americans. "I don't think we've heard American soldiers in the field talk as they do in this film about their disillusionment and their despair, about their questioning of what was going on. We've not seen that on the evening news," he said.

"You've seen this morning the abuse and humiliation of these Iraqi detainees. This occurred outside the [Abu Ghraib] prison walls. The American media is there every single day - how many networks with millions of dollars invested - why haven't they seen this?"

He went on to savage Mr Bush for sending young men and women to war on a lie. It was outrageous of President Bush to talk about the "failure of character" among troops caught committing abuses because "immoral behaviour begets immoral behaviour. If you create the immorality, don't be surprised then if immoral behaviour takes place".

Fahrenheit 9/11 is in competition for the top prize, the Palme d'Or, at Cannes. Its screening yesterday follows weeks of publicity by Moore, who claimed that Disney tried to block distribution and that Mel Gibson's film company Icon withdrew support under pressure from the White House.

But it still looks set to provoke fierce debate in his home nation with new evidence of American soldiers hooding Iraqis and, in one case, taking it in turns to sexually abuse a drunk elderly man.

It argues that Mr Bush created an explicit climate of fear in the US and repeatedly and erroneously linked Saddam Hussein and Iraq to al-Qa'ida in order to go ahead with the invasion. Interviews by freelance cameramen working in Iraq, but never broadcast in America, show the disillusionment of many soldiers at still being there.

Some critics viewed it with disappointment after the standard set by Moore's explosive performance in his Oscar-winning investigation into US gun culture, Bowling for Columbine.

Moore said that he hoped the film would spur Americans to action - and although he wants it to be seen before this autumn's election, he stopped short of saying that Mr Bush should be kicked out of office in November.

"The good thing about Americans is once they've got the information they act appropriately and from a good place. The hard thing is getting through [to them]," he said.

"What this film is going to do is like a mystery unravelling, the film will peel back the layers ... so the people can see what's really going on and they will be shocked and they will be in awe and I think they will respond."

Miramax, which stepped in to fund the film after Icon pulled out, has given Moore enough money to continue to update it in the next few weeks while the search for a distributor willing to show it in the United States continues. It will be released in Britain later this year.

Americans in the audience yesterday were divided on the film. Robert Crumb of The New Yorker magazine said: "It will definitely have political impact if it gets seen." But Lou Lumenick of the New York Post said he was disappointed. "His biggest problem is he was covering such a wide range of topics that the treatment of each one is pretty superficial."