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Disney Blocks Distribution of Documentary Critical of Bush Administration

BY Admin  May 5, 2004 at 3:59 PM EDT

The film, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” focuses on how the Bush administration responded to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and draws connections between the Bush family and its associates and prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden, Moore said on his Web site.

According to The New York Times, which first reported the story Wednesday, Moore’s agent, Ari Emmanuel, said that Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner asked him last spring to withdraw from the deal with Miramax.

Emmanuel said Eisner expressed concern the film would endanger tax breaks that Disney receives for its theme parks and other properties in Florida, where Jeb Bush, President Bush’s brother, is governor, the Times’ Jim Rutenberg reported.

“Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn’t mean I listened to him,” Emmanuel told the Times.

“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. He didn’t want a Disney company involved.”

Disney executives have denied those charges.

Disney, which bought Miramax more than a decade ago, has a contractual agreement with the Miramax principals, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, that allows it to prevent the distribution of the production company’s films under certain circumstances, such as an NC-17 rating or an excessive budget of more than $30-35 million.

Miramax agreed to finance the film a year ago after actor Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions backed out of production.

“We’re discussing the issue with Disney. We’re looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably,” a Miramax spokesman said in a statement.

But, a Disney representative indicated the company had made clear early on its objections to distributing Moore’s new film.

“We advised both (Moore’s) agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film would not be distributed by Miramax,” Disney company spokeswoman Zenia Mucha told The New York Times. “That decision stands.”

Moore, in a statement posted Wednesday on his Web site, expressed gratitude to Miramax and its leaders for backing the film and said the fight with Disney illustrated the challenge artists face.

“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 said in a statement.

Known for his documentaries using political satire and pointed commentary, Moore won an Academy Award for his 2002 documentary, “Bowling for Columbine,” about the Columbine High School shooting and U.S. gun control policies. That film netted $22 million in North America alone.

In his acceptance speech for the Oscar award, Moore drew boos and cheers from the audience when he said: “We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.

“Whether it’s the fiction of duct tape or fiction of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you,” said Moore.

In the Times article, Moore acknowledged “Fahrenheit 9/11″ was politically charged, but rejected the idea it was overtly partisan, telling the Times it was “on the side of the poor and working people in this country who provide fodder for this war machine.”

In several past instances, Miramax has used other distributors for films it has financed, such as Kevin Smith’s 1999 comedy “Dogma” and Larry Clark’s 1995 sexually explicit drama “Kids.” But, if Miramax uses another distributor, it would have to share its profits, the Times reported.

“Some people may be afraid of this movie because of what it will show. 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,” Moore wrote on his Web site.

Presently, the film does not have a release date for the United States, but will make its debut as one of 18 films presented at the Cannes Film Festival in France next week.