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Documentary on Bush-Saudi Connection Hits Own Political Snag

Filmmaker Michael Moore is known for projects that are political lightning rods—like 2003 Oscar winner “Bowling for Columbine,” which examined gun violence in America. Now it seems that his latest documentary is being bogged down by politics even before its release.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” allegedly links President Bush to prominent Saudi families, including that of Osama bin Laden. The documentary also criticizes Bush’s actions surrounding the terrorist attacks on <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Sept. 11, 2001.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
But Miramax, co-chaired by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, may not distribute the film as planned because its parent company—Disney—has said no to its release.
 
Disney has a contractual relationship with Miramax that allows the Mouse House to forbid distribution of any project on certain grounds, the New York Times reported.
 
If Disney prevails, Miramax would not be able to release the film as planned in North America. It would be forced to seek a new profit-sharing distributor, which would cut into Miramax’s own take, according to the Times.
 
“We’re discussing the issue with Disney,” Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik told the Times. “We’re looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably.”
 
Moore isn’t going quietly into the night, either.
 
“I would have hoped by now that I would be able to put my work out to the public without having to experience the profound censorship obstacles I often seem to encounter,” wrote Moore on his Web site.
 
“For nearly a year, this struggle has been a lesson in just how difficult it is in this country to create a piece of art that might upset those in charge,” he continued.
 
The Times quoted Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, who said that Disney CEO Michael Eisner asked him not to give the project to Miramax.
 
“He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that’s why he didn’t want me to sell it to Miramax,” Emanuel said in the Times. “He didn’t want a Disney company involved.”
 
Emanuel said Disney’s theme parks, hotels and other interests in Florida—where Jeb Bush is governor—might suffer retribution should an anti-Bush film be released by a Disney subsidiary.
 
Disney executives have denied Emanuel’s characterization, according to the Times.
 
Moore will present the documentary at the Cannes Film Festival next week, where it has been selected as one of 18 films in competition. Running time for the documentary is 1 hour 50 minutes.
 
“Some people may be afraid of this movie because of what it will show,” Moore wrote on his site. “But there’s nothing they can do about it now because it’s done, it’s awesome, and if I have anything to say about it, you’ll see it this summer–because, after all, it is a free country.”
 
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.