Even before the premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's controversial new film, the documentary is catching heat.
According to a report in The New York Times on Wednesday (May 5), Disney is preventing its Miramax studio from distributing the film, which presents a negative portrayal of the way President Bush handled the September 11 terrorist attacks and connects his family with prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden.
"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," the activist filmmaker behind 2002's Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine" wrote on his Web site.
The Times, quoting Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, alleges that Disney is blocking the film's distribution out of fear that it would affect tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and assorted ventures in Florida, where Jeb Bush, the president's brother, is governor. Disney executives denied the accusation.
"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 (well, OK, sorry — it WILL upset them ... big time. Did I mention it's a comedy?)," Moore continued in his online letter, before praising Miramax principals Bob and Harvey Weinstein for standing by him.
Disney purchased Miramax more than 10 years ago. A contractual agreement states that Disney can prevent Miramax from distributing films for reasons that include an NC-17 rating or an excessive budget. A Miramax spokesperson told The Associated Press that the company is working to resolve the dispute, but a Disney spokesperson said the company's position will not change.
The title of Moore's film is a riff on the Ray Bradbury novel "Fahrenheit 451," a tale of censorship in the future. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is scheduled to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this month and is expected to be released this summer.
"Some people may be afraid of this movie because of what it will show," Moore wrote to close his letter. "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."