June 25, 2004
Michael and them: Moore foes hold fest
By Paul Bond
Just as his “Fahrenheit 9/11” opens nationwide, several filmmakers are readying documentaries aimed at debunking Michael Moore, and a new film festival is being planned that will feature such works as well as other documentaries well to the right of Moore’s films.
Scheduled Sept. 9-11 in Dallas, the American Film Renaissance, as the festival will be known, has just been announced by co-founder Jim Hubbard, who said it is bankrolled primarily by some “big-time conservative donors.”
Hubbard currently is negotiating to show two films critical of Moore.
The first is “Michael Moore Hates America,” made by newcomer Michael Wilson and funded partially by Brian Cartmell, who made a small fortune when he sold his Internet domain registration company, eNic, to Verisign. The feature film, made for $200,000 and featuring appearances from Penn Jillette and John Stossel, among others, is looking for a theatrical and DVD distribution deal.
The second is the bigger-budget effort “Michael & Me” that was made by talk-radio star and soon-to-be TV host Larry Elder. The 90-minute documentary takes on Moore’s 2002 anti-gun documentary, “Bowling for Columbine,” Elder said.
“My film is a defense of those who own guns and of the Second Amendment,” said Elder, whose “The Larry Elder Show” from Warner Bros. Prods. starts Sept. 13 on CBS affiliates in most major markets.
Elder said that he borrows liberally from Moore, including a “Bowling”-like animated segment that has Elder interviewing an obviously tense Moore. “He’s sweating and sweating to the point he’s reed thin, then he pulls out a gun and shoots me.”
Moore didn’t agree to an interview for either Elder’s movie or Wilson’s. “I did ambush him at a book signing in Santa Monica, and that’s in the film,” Elder said. “I asked him how many times Americans used guns for defensive purposes. He had nothing. No blooming clue.”
For Moore’s part, he said he’s familiar with the title “Michael Moore Hates America” but doubts the movie even exists, beyond the trailer that can be seen on the Internet.
“You’re being duped by the kooky right,” he said. “I’ve been waiting to see this movie. It sounds like great science fiction.”
Moore said he hadn’t heard of Elder’s film “Michael & Me.”
As for the festival, Hubbard said that about 10 films are confirmed, and he’ll cap it at about two dozen. Film reviewer Michael Medved is a confirmed guest as is Lionel Chetwynd, whose Showtime movie “DC 9/11,” starring Timothy Bottoms as President Bush, will be shown.
“I’m itching to show that anywhere I can,” Chetwynd said. “Like with all cable films, you want to keep it out there as long as you can to get it in front of as wide an audience as possible.”
Hubbard and wife, Ellen, both attorneys, co-founded the festival in the spirit of competition. Boycott efforts, like the one from the group MoveAmericaForward.org that is asking exhibitors not to show Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “are for the weak,” Hubbard said.
“We want everyone to see Michael Moore’s film,” he said. “We also want everyone to see ‘Michael Moore Hates America.’ Conservatives complain about institutional bias in Hollywood. They need to stop whining and get out there and produce.”
“Documentaries,” added filmmaker Wilson, “are not ‘Lions of the Serengeti’ anymore. In this politically charged climate, they’re skewed to an agenda, be it Michael Moore’s or mine.”
Not all films screened at the American Film Renaissance will invoke Moore. Patrick Wright’s documentary, “Is It True What They Say About Ann?” focuses on Ann Coulter, the Fox News pundit. It was recently screened at the Melbourne Film Festival.
And the war on terror also is expected to be a dominant theme at the American Film Renaissance.
“Liberal Hollywood has basically ignored the subject,” filmmaker Jason Apuzzo said. His entry to the festival is “Terminal Island” and stars his wife, Govindini Murty, with a cameo from Irvin Kershner, director of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Never Say Never Again.” Kershner, who Apuzzo is careful to note that he doesn’t share the same politics as Apuzzo and Murty, nevertheless mentored the couple in the making of their film.
“Conservative messages don’t have a chance in contemporary Hollywood,” Apuzzo said. “But there’s another side in Hollywood. We are small in numbers but passionate.”
“Terminal Island” is a black-and-white feature film about a woman being stalked by a Muslim terrorist who is himself being stalked by a bounty hunter.
“When you shop a script like this around,” said Murty, "studio execs say, ‘Is this about Muslim terrorists? We don’t want to touch it.’ "
So why have a couple of lawyers from Texas created a film festival? “I’ve always been interested in the cultural and political messages in film,” Jim Hubbard said. “To be frank, whenever there is such a message, it’s liberal. For 40 years the left has had a near monopoly, and we’re going to counter that.”