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Searing celluloid expose

Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," an anti-Bush and anti-war documentary, is making waves in the U.S. With the Presidential elections round the corner, will the film's impact show on the poll results, asks V. GANGADHAR.

A secret service officer confronts filmmaker Michael Moore across the street from the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. in a scene from Moore's new documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

WITH AROUND four months to go and in the midst of a hectic Presidential campaign for a second term, the U.S. President George Bush does not need any new headaches. He has enough on his plate — the Iraq quagmire, the increasing deaths of U.S. soldiers in the unpopular war, poll ratings which are dipping alarmingly, increasing evidence that he has lied to the American people, and a Democratic party candidate, John Kerry, who is shaping up quite well.

What is the new headache? It is Michael Moore's sizzling, anti-Bush, anti-war documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11."Released recently in more than 5,000 U.S. theatres, the documentary, which won top honours at the recent Cannes film festival, is a searing expose of the Bush administration and a vicious personal attack on the President. In a gut-wrenching expose of the Iraq folly, the film bares every `stupidity' of the Bush administration, which took the country to an unnecessary war. An avowed Bush-baiter, Moore's film catches every perfidy of the President and his aides.

There are scenes showing explicitly how the `Bushies' are in cahoots with the `Saudis' in siphoning off the oil money from West Asia. And explores links between the Bush family and Osama Bin Laden! Obviously this is the season of anti-Bush movies. Another blockbuster released two months earlier, "The Day After Tomorrow," dealt with global warming and the role of the Bush Government on the issue.

While "The Day After Tomorrow" was mostly attacked on the edit and op-ed pages of the U.S. media, "Fahrenheit" goes straight to the hearts of millions of Americans, telling them how they have been duped into supporting the war.

The families of hundreds of American soldiers killed in action in the needless war must be furious with the government for taking them for a ride.

The U.S. media, which ardently supported the war at the beginning has had a soul-searching and reversed its stand. In a front-page story, The New York Times urged the President to apologise publicly to the people for misleading them over the Iraq war. In this scenario, Moore's film can have an additional impact and tilt the scales in favour of John Kerry.

Moore's documentary had problems getting a release in the U.S. Miramax studio's parent firm, Disney, refused to touch the movie, which also attacked Bush's handling of the 9/11 tragedy. It was finally released by Miramax chiefs, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, through a deal with two outside companies.

Over the years, most Hollywood studios and established producers have been strongly pro-establishment. Thus, the cowboys always won against the Red Indians. In the two world wars, the Americans were invincible, the Germans and the Japanese, the fall guys. In the aftermath of the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Chinese were the villains. So it went on with the Middle East, Afghanistan and so on. The Yank Brigade marched on victoriously.

Revelling in the Cold War atmosphere, Hollywood made films glorifying the FBI and the CIA. The notorious FBI boss, Edgar Hoover, was one of Hollywood's heroes! Of course, the more thinking and intelligent filmmakers have had reservations on these issues. Anti-war movies like "Sergeant York" explored the futility of war. David Lean's memorable "The Bridge on the River Kwai" questioned the concept of victory and defeat in the war and the duties and responsibilities of officers to their men during war time and in captivity.

Actor Burt Lancaster produced and starred with his pal, Kirk Douglas, in "Seven Days in May" which dealt with the explosive theme of a likely military takeover of the U.S. Government. In the 1950s, this was a revolutionary theme!

Yet it was only during the Vietnam war that the anti-war movement crystallised in the U.S. Sick and tired of the deception practised by successive Presidents beginning with Eisenhower and ending with Nixon and their henchmen in the Pentagon, the State Department and other government agencies, in imposing a cruel war on the Vietnamese, conscientious filmmakers came out with films like "The Deer Hunters" and "Apocalpyse Now."

But these films dealt only with wrong policies and acts of various American governments, particularly at the time of war.

As Richard Nixon tried to subvert the democratic process in the country through criminal acts, planned and executed from the White House, it was time to shift focus.

"All the President's Men," released after the Watergate scandal and the exit of Nixon, was a path-breaker. Years later, British actor Anthony Hopkins starred in "Nixon" which probed the evil in the mind of a President.

Yet, to this day, no documentary or film has had any direct impact on the political career of an American president. That way ``Fahrenheit 9/11" is indeed a landmark film.

It will show that it takes a filmmaker to awaken the conscience of the American citizens.

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