Michael Moore's anti-republican documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 proved too hot for even the Cannes Film Festival jurors to ignore. The Quentin Tarantino-headed panel of judges awarded it the prestigious Palme D'Or for 2004 at the close of the festival last night. It is the first time a doc has won the award since Jacques Cousteau's The Silent World in 1956.
Fahrenheit 9/11 was hitting the headlines even before the festival started. The burly director alleged that Disney refused to allow its more maverick subsidiary Miramax Films from distributing Fahrenheit 9/11 because Disney was afraid that Jeb Bush, governor of Florida and brother of George Junior, would kill the tax breaks Disney enjoys on its theme parks.
By the time Fahrenheit 9/11 arrived for its world premiere in France, it was in such demand that five screenings had to be scheduled for the world's media. For once, the hype appears to have been justified. According to festival artistic director Thierry FrÃ©maux the 20 minute standing ovation after the black-tie screening was the longest he has ever seen.
In Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore draws links between Bush and Bin Laden clans, shows the gaping flaws in the Bush administration's Iraq policy, interviews with limbless victims, and bereaved family members of the war. It also shows previously unseen footage of US troops mistreating Iraqi prisoners and a clip, Moore obtained from a pre-school teacher, showing Bush's inability to act in a crisis (the now infamous "My Pet Goat" video).
Moore himself appears less on the screen than in previous films. "This time I was the straight man, Bush wrote the funniest lines," he joked at Cannes. Moore may make some changes to the film before its Summer release (he wants to open on 4th July weekend in the States, in time for the presidential election campaign), as more revelations about Iraq come out. If the festival reaction is anything to go by, Fahrenheit 9/11 looks like it will surpass box office records for a documentary, that Moore set with his last film Bowling For Columbine.
Accepting the award Moore said, "I have a sneaking suspicion that what you have done here and the response from everyone at the festival, you will assure that the American people will see this film. I can't thank you enough for that. You've put a huge light on this and many people want the truth and many want to put it in the closet, and just walk away."
George Junior must be rueing the fact that there is no chance of that happening now.
Palme d'Or Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore)
Grand prix Old Boy (Park Chan-wook)
Best actress Maggie Cheung (Clean)
Best actor Yagira Yuuya (Nobody Knows)
Best director Tony Gatlif (Exils)
Best screenplay Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri (Comme une Image)
Jury prize (tied) Apichatpong Weerasethakul (director) for Tropical Malady and Irma P Hall (actress) in The Ladykillers