/ 1 June 2007

Michael Moore on the wrong side of the law

The Cannes festival swooned at Sicko, filmmaker and provocateur Michael Moore’s latest jeremiad against the United States administration, which receives its premiere there on May 19. To add to the excitement, the US treasury is investigating Moore for taking sick 9/11 rescuers to Cuba for part of the documentary, Associated Press has reported. Sicko tackles the state of American healthcare, focusing on the pharmaceutical giants and particularly on health insurers.

Moore won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2004 with Fahrenheit 911. Now, according to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Company is behind the film, the US government has attempted to impound the negative.

According to Weinstein, the US treasury’s moves meant ‘we had to fly the movie to another country”– he would not say where. ‘Let the secret service find that out — though this is the same country that thought there were weapons of mass destruction, so they’ll never find it.” He added that he feared that, if the film were impounded, there might be attempts to cut some footage, in particular the last 20 minutes, which related to the Cuba trip. This, said Weinstein, ‘would not be good”.

In March, Moore travelled to the Caribbean island with a group of emergency workers from New York’s Ground Zero to see whether they would receive better care under the Castro regime than they had under George W Bush. He had applied for permission to travel in October 2006 and received no reply.

In a letter dated May 2, the treasury notified Moore that it was investigating him for unlicensed travel to Cuba or, as the missive put it, engaging in ‘travel-related transactions involving Cuba”.

Weinstein believes the investigation has a political agenda. ‘We want to find out who motivated this. We suspect there may be interference from another office,” he said. ‘Otherwise, I don’t understand why this would have come about.”

Weinstein named no suspects in this putative political interference, but referred to outspoken critics of Moore on the Republican right — who tend to accuse him of peddling propaganda rather than of undertaking serious journalism — including presidential hopeful Bob Thompson.

‘Senator Thompson has come out with a tirade against Michael. Michael said he’d debate him, but Thompson turned him down,” said Weinstein.

He also said that insurers and pharmaceutical companies had ‘already sent out letters advising employees how to react when the film comes out”.

Weinstein appeared to be enjoying the brouhaha. ‘I’ve already told the treasury that they are saving me money on advertising,” he said. —