NEW YORK (Reuters) — Walt Disney Co. has barred its Miramax film studio from distributing a documentary by director Michael Moore that is critical of President Bush, The New York Times reported today.
The film, Fahrenheit 9/11, focuses on how the Bush administration responded to the hijacking attacks on Sept. 11 and on ties between the Bush family and prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden.
"Yesterday I was told that Disney, the studio that owns Miramax, has officially decided to prohibit our producer, Miramax, from distributing my new film, Fahrenheit 9/11," Moore, known for confrontational documentaries offering sharp political commentary, said in a letter posted on his Web site.
Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik declined to comment on Disney's actions. But he said, "We're discussing the issue with Disney. We're looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably."
Disney was not immediately available for comment.
A source who has worked on Fahrenheit 9/11 said, "Disney was not going to let this happen. Disney was not specific about the reasons it gave for declining to distribute the film."
Disney, which bought Miramax more than a decade ago, has a contractual agreement with the Miramax principals, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, allowing it to prevent the company from distributing films under certain circumstances, like an excessive budget or an NC-17 rating.
The New York Times quoted Moore's agent, Ari Emmanuel, as saying that Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner asked him to pull out of the Miramax deal.
Emmanuel said Eisner was concerned the film would endanger tax breaks that Disney receives for its theme parks and other properties in Florida, where President Bush's brother Jeb is governor, The New York Times reported. Disney executives denied that accusation, the paper reported.
The New York Times quoted an unnamed Disney executive as saying that the company did not want to be involved in a politically controversial film.
Moore, in his letter, said, "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."
The title of the film is a play on the Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451, a futuristic story about censorship.
The documentary, which also includes footage shot in Iraq and is to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this month, is expected to be commercially released this summer, said Moore, whose other documentaries include Roger and Me and the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine.
Miramax agreed to finance the film a year ago after actor Mel Gibson's Icon Productions withdrew its backing for the production.
In several instances, Miramax has found other distributors for films it has financed, such as Kevin Smith's 1999 comedy Dogma and Larry Clark's controversial 1995 drama Kids.
Like him or not this is still America. This shows something about the time we are living in. When big corporations and government can attempt to silence someone with a dissenting opinion. When are we going to see heads on pikes in front of the White House?