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Moore&#39;s <I>Fahrenheit</I> Fires Up Video Stores

5 Oct, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Since last week, Michael Moore has been making waves not just on the road, with his speaking tour to unseat President Bush, but also in the video store.

His controversial Bush-bashing documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, arrived on DVD Oct. 5 in a lavish two-disc special edition jam-packed with extras.

The same day, from MGM Home Entertainment, came the Michael Moore Limited Edition DVD Collector's Set, a three-DVD boxed set consisting of two Moore's previous films — Bowling for Columbine and The Big One — as well as a bonus featurette, “30 Cities in 23 Days,” chronicling the filmmaker's recent book tour for Dude, Where's My Country?

Moore is certainly proud of all the attention, noting he had two books arrive in stores last week. But it's the Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD he's the most pumped about, particularly since it's coming out a month before the election.

“I thought as many Americans as possible should see it before they vote in the election,” Moore said, noting that he specifically asked the DVD's distributor, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, to issue the DVD “earlier than normal, just as a public service.”

When he was making Fahrenheit, Moore said, he hardly intended to influence an election. “My first and foremost responsibility was as a filmmaker, trying to make a good film,” he said. “There was no Bush versus Kerry; I just wanted to document the reality that this President used a tragic event in which 3,000 people lost their lives as an excuse to invade another country that had nothing to do with it.

“I didn't make the film just to preach to people.”

But when Fahrenheit 9/11 was released theatrically in late June, that's what a lot of people thought. The film, which earned more than $115 million in theaters and is the highest-grossing documentary ever, was blasted by critics as an anti-Bush propaganda piece masquerading as a documentary.

The filmmaker weighs in: “It's a nonfiction film, and nonfiction is a very big tent — and that can be anything from C-Span to a film with a point of view, such as mine. Propaganda is a vile term — first of all, propaganda is the function of a totalitarian state that uses intimidation and lies to its people to accomplish its goals.

“My film is anti-propaganda, an antidote to the evening news that did nothing but report the propaganda of the Bush Administration, night after night. My film exists as one small pebble of truth we throw up against a huge machine of propaganda.”

The DVD of Fahrenheit 9/11 contains a rich bounty of extras, including

• Deleted scenes on homeland security and the Abu Ghraib prison; • Condoleeza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission;

• President Bush's Rose Garden press briefing after his own appearance before the commission;

• An extended interview with war protester Abdul Henderson, the Marine who refused to go back to Iraq; and

• A featurette on the controversy surrounding the theatrical release of the film.Initially, Fahrenheit was supposed to be distributed by Miramax Films. The Walt Disney, which owns Miramax, nixed those plans, so the documentary wound up with Lions Gate Films, an independent.

Moore is still angry about the Disney snub.“No filmmaker wants to hear, eight weeks before his film comes out, that his distributor doesn't want to carry his film,” Moore said. “At the time, my agent told me [Disney chief] Michael Eisner told him he didn't want to upset [Florida Governor] Jeb Bush because Disney was trying to get some tax breaks in Florida, plus he was having trouble with the [Disney] board and didn't want to stir things up.“But then this Canadian reporter sent me these articles from 10 years ago about Euro Disney being bailed out of bankruptcy by the Saudi royal family, and that's when I realized the real reason. Prince Alwaleed still owns 17 percent of the park, and then it all made sense, in my humble opinion.”What did Moore think of last week's debate between President Bush and Democratic rival John Kerry?“I thought it was downright frightening,” he said. “Everyone agrees Kerry won. He framed the issues carefully. Bush appeared confused and disoriented. He just kept repeating, like a robot, it's a safer world without Saddam Hussein.”

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