by Marinka Peschmann, Exclusive to Canada Free Press
October 21, 2004
Oscar winning filmmaker Michael Moore's Cannes Film Festival prized Fahrenheit 9/11 premiered in the Middle East in July. But since last June the camera-welcoming director has dodged al Jazeera's interview requests. Considering that Moore featured clips from al Jazeera in his over $100 million-grossing Bush-bashing documentary, why would Moore snub the controversial yet highest-rated arab Network and pass on the opportunity to promote Fahrenheit 9/11, reaching their global audience of 40 million strong?
Canada Free Press has obtained emails documenting al Jazeera's repeated attempts to interview the outspoken Moore, "We are putting an international plan for the film in place… Rest assured your request is noted," read DDa Public Relation's June 16 response to al Jazeera's email. DDa Public Relations who handles 'international publicity' for Fahrenheit 9/11 on behalf of Harvey and Bob Weinstein's 'Fellowship adventure Group' told al Jazeera. "Just as soon as we have more information, we will be back in touch."
Yet five months later, al Jazeera's telephone requests, email exchanges, plus an impromptu encounter at the Republican National Convention between al Jazeera's New York Bureau Correspondent abderrahim Foukara and Michael Moore who said 'no problem, talk to my publicist' have proven fruitless. Moore's 'publicist' told Foukara, 'I'll be in touch tomorrow,'--but tomorrow never came. "I'm amazed that the maker of a such controversial film wouldn't address 40 million arabs throughout the world about issues that have a direct relevance to them which he deals with in Fahrenheit 9/11," said Foukara.
Incidentally, Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on al Jazeera as did U.S. ambassador to Baghdad John Negroponte and Oscar-winning Hollywood star Susan Sarandon. Canada Free Press learned that Moore shares company with Oscar-winner Jessica Lange, who while promoting a film chronicling the plight of afghan women, also declined al Jazeera's interview request. Lange's agent at Caa could not be reached for comment.
Debuting at number one at the United arab Emirates, Fahrenheit 9/11 was screened throughout the Middle East including in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Syria. Reportedly, Moore's distributor UaE-based Front Row Entertainment fine-tuned the text in Fahrenheit 9/11's promotional poster from: The Temperature at Which Truth Burns to The Temperature Where Freedom Burns.
Ironically, it appears Fahrenheit 9/11 has united the West and the Middle East--both are united in questioning the veracity of Moore's facts and in controversy.
arab News, Michael Saba wrote, "Michael Moore is brilliant at marketing and short on getting his facts correct…. Moore the great liberal-progressive is guilty of extensive ethnic stereotyping which borders on racism in his movie."
Saudi ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal told London's Sunday Telegraph that the 9/11 report refuted Moore's claim that Saudi nationals were flown out of the United States before September 13. 'It would have been far better if Michael Moore had been able to read the 9/11 report before he made his film,' and noted that although Moore received a visa to Saudi arabia he never went to research his claims ultimately getting 'his facts wrong.'
Banned in Kuwait, abdul aziz Bou Dastour at the Information Ministry told associated Press, 'We have a law that prohibits insulting friendly nations.' Fahrenheit 9/11 'insulted the Saudi royal family by saying they had common interests with the Bush family and that those interests conflicted with the interests of the american people.'
Egyptian reviewers of Fahrenheit 9/11 noted 'that Moore's single-minded focus on the Saudis verged on a pernicious kind of anti-arab racism,' wrote Garay Menicucci in Middle East Report Online. 'Saudi oil wealth does not translate into sufficient political clout in Washington for the Saudis to push the U.S. into war, as far as Egyptian and arab audiences are concerned.'
Meanwhile, on the third anniversary of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 opened in Iran gliding through Iran's characteristically impenetrable censors because 'anything against the United States is good,' speculated one Iranian viewer reported in Middle East Online. although some Iranians found the film 'boring,' another viewer remarked, 'It sure is a great country, where someone like Moore trashes the president and gets away with it--and makes so much money!'
Will Moore address the controversy he's ignited in the Middle East anytime soon?
Jill DiRaffaele at DDa Public Relations confirmed al Jazeera's interview requests beginning five months ago, 'but I haven't had any word as too whether or not Michael arranged something [with al Jazeera]. Not to my knowledge.' Currently Moore is 'dedicating all of his time to U.S. press' and 'will not be doing any international press.' "He's concentrating on the U.S. elections." Said DiRaffaele. Calls and emails to Fahrenheit 9/11's distributor Lions Gate Films and Michael Moore were not returned by press time.
Marinka Peschmann is a freelance writer whose first book collaboration, the best-selling The Kid Stays In The Picture; was made into a documentary. She's contributed to several books and stories ranging from showbiz and celebrities to true crime and politics.