'Fahrenheit 9/11' sparks controversy and wins attention
Conservatives cry foul
By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Some movies win Academy Awards. Others win film festival prizes. But this week, a movie has won the most coveted prize of all -- the political Play of the Week.
The country is divided over President Bush, divided over Iraq, divided over the election.
And now, it's divided over a documentary -- Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11.''
"I think it is a powerful statement. It raises fundamental issues of morality, trust," said Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as former President Carter's national security adviser.
KSFO Radio Talk Show host Melanie Morgan had a different opinion: "The movie is crap. It's not good. It is wrong."
Moore's movie ridicules Bush. That's the whole point.
A scene from the film shows Bush on a golf course.
"I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you," Bush says. "Now watch this drive."
One side calls the documentary factual.
"It's put ... together into a cohesive, chronological line of events," said actress Sally Field.
The other side calls it fictional.
"When we do have free time to see a good fiction movie, we'll probably pick 'Shrek,' " said White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett.
It was a struggle to get the film released. When the picture was awarded the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival last month, it was clearly an anti-Bush political statement.
"You will ensure that the American people will see this movie," Moore said at Cannes on May 24.
There's an organized effort to keep that from happening.
"We're not asking anybody to boycott," said Morgan. "We're asking them to communicate with the theater owners to tell them that it's not appreciated."
But it doesn't seem to be working. Film executives said no theater has refused to feature the movie.
Critics said the movie could demoralize the country in a time of war.
"It's a message that's undermining the war on terrorism," said Morgan.
But Moore said he's reporting on demoralization -- not causing it.
"This film is full of American troops over in Iraq, telling you, the audience, how demoralized they are because the Bush administration has sent them over there on a lie," said Moore.
Now there's an effort underway to argue that ads for the movie could be unlawful electioneering.
Moore makes no secret of his desire to influence the presidential election.
"I certainly hope that on November 3, the country is returned to the majority," said Moore.
Movies thrive on controversy. Look at "The Passion of the Christ,'' the film by Mel Gibson that angered some people but was warmly received by conservative Christians.
In both cases, the filmmakers hope the controversy will get uncommitted voters into theaters so the film won't just be preaching to the converted.