Sunday, June 6, 2004

Movies may sway voters, some say

By Gary Strauss
USA Today

In what is shaping up to be a tight race between President Bush and presumptive Democratic challenger John Kerry, could politically charged movies tip the election?

It seems far-fetched, especially since the special effects in The Day After Tomorrow overshadow its warnings about global warming. Still, some say Tomorrow, Fahrenheit 9/11 and other politically tinged movies could sway voters.

"The furor raised by (Tomorrow) can have an impact," says Patrick Michaels, an environmental specialist at the Cato Institute and author of the upcoming book Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media.

More than 14 million people have seen the movie.

"In a tight election, global warming could be a wedge issue," Michaels says. "A few thousand votes could make a difference."

Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore's scathing documentary of Bush's actions before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his ties to Arab oil money, could be damaging.

"A movie calling Bush a liar and incompetent is going to mean debate and discussion," says Jonathan Rosenbaum, a Chicago film reviewer and author of Movies as Politics.

Fahrenheit, whose premise has been called "outrageously false" by the White House, created a stir before winning top prize at last month's Cannes Film Festival. Disney refused to release the film, saying it was too politically charged. Harvey and Bob Weinstein, founders of Disney's Miramax studio, will release it with Lions Gate and IFC Films on June 25.

"Because of the war, people are more receptive to what Moore is saying now," Rosenbaum says. Other films with political bents may have less impact.

The Hunting of the President, based on the best-selling book, examines the effort by conservatives to discredit President Clinton. It opens June 11. Says Hunting director Harry Thomason, a longtime Clinton ally: "Ours is probably preaching to the choir. It will take far more than any of these films to influence the election."

Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke says he doubts such movies affect voters. "Most people understand the difference between entertainment and political statements."

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