Thursday, May 6, 2004

Disney blocks polemic 9-11 documentary

By Christy Lemire
The Associated Press

The Walt Disney Co. is blocking its Miramax Films division from distributing Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which criticizes President Bush's handling of Sept. 11 and connects the Bush family with Osama bin Laden's.

Moore attributes Disney's decision to concerns that the documentary will endanger tax breaks the company receives from Florida, where Bush's brother Jeb is governor.

"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," Moore wrote Wednesday in a statement on his Web site.

The filmmaker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Miramax confirmed that Disney told the company it can't release the film. "We hope to amicably resolve the situation in the near future," Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik said.

Disney representatives Zenia Mucha and John Spelich did not return calls early Wednesday.

Disney has a contractual agreement with Miramax principals Bob and Harvey Weinstein allowing it to prevent the company from distributing films under certain circumstances, such as an NC-17 rating or a budget of more than $30-35 million.

"Some people may be afraid of this movie because of what it will show," Moore wrote. "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."

According to The New York Times, which first reported the story Wednesday, Fahrenheit 9/11 describes decades-old financial links between the Bush family and prominent Saudi Arabian families.

The film alleges the government helped members of bin Laden's family leave the United States after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The confrontational Moore won an Oscar for his 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine, about the Columbine High School shooting and U.S. gun-control policy.

The film earned $21.6 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing documentary ever. He's also known for the 1989 film Roger & Me, which explored the effects of General Motors on his hometown of Flint, Mich.

Fahrenheit 9/11 will have a high-profile screening as one of 18 films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, which begins May 12.

Moore ran into similar interference with his book Stupid White Men, which almost never made it to print. Publication was postponed after Sept. 11, and publisher HarperCollins considered canceling the book or editing its criticisms.

After lengthy discussions, Stupid White Men came out uncensored.

It almost immediately sold out a first printing of 50,000 and went on to top The New York Times nonfiction best seller list.

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