William Karel on The World According to Bush

Submitted by Robert Alstead on Wed, 10/06/2004 - 16:00

The director of the French documentary The World According to Bush (Le Monde Selon Bush), the film that got bumped at the Cannes film festival by Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, hopes that he will still find a way for Americans to see his film before the presidential election on 2nd November.

William Karel was speaking on Tuesday at the Vancouver International Film Festival where his film, made originally for French television, had its international premiere. Festival organisers have scheduled extra screenings of the film after it sold out to capacity audiences.

The World According to Bush covers much of the territory of Fahrenheit 9/11, but is a more sober, conventionally made look at the first 1000 days of George Bush's presidency. It was originally scheduled to screen at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but when Michael Moore finished his film at the last minute, Karel's film was pulled because festival artistic director Thierry Frémaux didn't want Cannes to appear too anti-American.

The documentary has earned praise from a number of quarters for offering the most coherent exposition of the slide into war through high calibre interviews with the likes of author Norman Mailer, weapons inspector Hans Blix, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Pentagon advisor Richard Perle. However, there has been little U.S. media interest.

"Either they don't know or they don't care," said Karel, speaking through a interpreter. Karel said that Michael Moore had omitted some important parts in George Bush's story. "There is hardly anything about the religious right and its relationship with the Bush family and also the dangerous liaisons between Israel and the Bush family."

Both films reveal the unholy relationship between Bush and bin Laden clans, but The World According to Bush goes further back in history to the days when Prescott Bush, W's grandfather, was banker to Hitler's Third Reich.

Karel said Yoko Ono had requested a copy of the film after seeing it on television during a visit to France earlier this year, to ascertain if she could find a U.S. release. However, Karel who sent a copy of the film to Ono by post hasn't heard back from her. Other efforts to secure a broadcast deal have come to nought.

"It seemed like such a no-brainer that one of the large networks would pick it up and yet that hasn't happened," said Karel. "One of the potential broadcasters in the United States said they would be interested, but they would have to pull out the whole section on Ariel Sharon and the relationship with Israel. So there were some problems."

Asked if he had ever felt pressure from the U.S. administration to suppress his work about Bush, Karel responded by saying, "On the contrary... this is the fifth film that I have made about America - all of them quite critical - and the American embassy in Paris couldn't have been more helpful." Surprisingly, they even offered to help him find rare footage and track down contacts.

Karel fears that the film "will be redundant by the third of November." He said he hadn't ruled out bringing the film out on DVD before the election date.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will be showing The World According to Bush on documentary series The Passionate Eye (Sunday October 17, 2004 at 10pm ET/PT repeating Friday October 22, 2004 at 10pm ET). The documentary will also be screened at the San Francisco Film Festival, but after the election.

The film is just one of a handful of political documentaries playing at the Vancouver International Film Festival, ending tomorrow, that focus on Bush and his administration's "War on Terror". They include the intellectual "Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear and the Selling of American Empire", video blogs (made for BBC's Newsnight) from Salam Pax, and the 70-minute "George W. Bush: Faith in the Whitehouse".

The latter, released in partisan opposition to Michael Moore's film, reveals how big a part religion plays in the president's life. "A documentary conceived as a rebuke to Fahrenheit 9/11 is nothing if not its unintentional and considerably more nightmarish sequel," is how Frank Rich described it in The New York Times.

"His faith will change and inspire you!" the blurb on the DVD jacket promises.

Vancouver International Film Festival coverage.