Fahrenheit 9/11

Assertion and innuendo make up emotional plea to US voters
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The Independent Culture

Even before the festival began, Fahrenheit 9/11 was the hottest ticket in Cannes. Disney's refusal to distribute Michael Moore's Miramax-produced documentary garnered headlines around the world, denials from Disney, and refutations of those denials from Moore.

Even before the festival began, Fahrenheit 9/11 was the hottest ticket in Cannes. Disney's refusal to distribute Michael Moore's Miramax-produced documentary garnered headlines around the world, denials from Disney, and refutations of those denials from Moore.

The film was aired yesterday at a hastily arranged 8am screening for selected journalists and critics, in the presence of the Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein. By then, the British PR firm hired to handle international press had dropped the title, reportedly after disputes with the filmmakers.

These shenanigans are appropriate scene-setters for a polemical broadside targeted squarely at President George Bush's re-election campaign.

Initially billed as an exposé of the links between the Bush dynasty and the Bin Ladens, Fahrenheit 9/11 turns out to be altogether less specific, taking in the civil liberties infringements of the Patriot Act, what Moore sees as government fear-mongering on the terrorist threat, the false claims about Saddam's nuclear and chemical weapon capabilities, war profiteering, and even government cutbacks in veterans' pay as well as speculation that the Saudis bankrolled Mr Bush's first steps in the oil business.

There isn't much in the way of new evidence here. Moore's method is assertion and innuendo, backed up with the opinions of mostly friendly witnesses (such as Congressman John Conyers, who remarks that politicians don't actually read the bills they pass), and wittily edited montages of TV news footage scored to pop hits. We're a long way from any pretension to objectivity here.

Moore is a satirist and a propagandist - he has been frank about his dearest hope for the film: that it might inspire enough voters to oust Bush from the White House. It is presumably with that objective in mind that he devotes the second half of the film to a carefully calibrated appeal to the emotions of America's mothers and fathers.

Moore lends an ear to the troops on the ground, and goes back to his home town, Flint, Michigan, a popular recruiting ground for the Marines. The economic realities of Flint (with unemployment running at about 50 per cent) are contrasted tellingly with a consultant from the international firm Halliburton assuring American businessmen that "there is a lot of money to be made in Iraq ... and no matter what it costs, the goverment will pay".

This is an angry film about greed, the abuse of power, the betrayal of the people by their leaders. Moore says he hopes to keep it up to date between now and a pre-election US release in July - assuming Miramax find a distributor to their liking. Republicans will be infuriated by the film's simple emotional address. The rest of us will hope it reaches as wide a congregation as The Passion of the Christ.



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