WASHINGTON - June 17 - The First Amendment Action Committee of PEN USA is deeply concerned by the blatant call for the a priori restraint of an upcoming movie release.
An organization called "Move America Forward" has launched a preemptive attack against movie maker Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 9/11 by requesting movie theaters across the country not to show the film, scheduled to open June 25. Their website claims they "are urging movie theaters to drop the anti-American film from their movie lineup."
The film, which recently won the Cannes film festival's prestigious Palme d'Or, explores the ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family and the Bush Administration's evacuation of bin Laden family members after the September 11th attacks.
The movie had already stirred up controversy when the Disney Corporation barred its subsidiary, Miramax Films from distributing it. Currently, there is a debate about the R film rating it received from the Motion Picture Association of America. Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo announced yesterday afternoon that he will spearhead the appeal to the MPAA seeking a 'PG-13' rating.
According to The Alternative Press Review, a public relations firm was hired by Bush-supporters to create the Move America Forward website. The California-based organization is headed by former GOP Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian and aided by Melanie Morgan, a talk show host on KSFO 560 AM, both of whom had high-profile roles in support of last year's recall election of former Democratic Governor Gray Davis.
The PR firm is Russo Marsh & Rogers, which is a GOP consultation firm that worked on the 2002 campaign of Bill Simon (R) who ran for governor of California. Investigative website Whatreallyhappened.com revealed that the Move America Forward web site was actually registered in the name of Russo Marsh & Rodgers, although recently the registrant name was modified to omit the PR firm.
Rather then asking Move America Forward supporters to boycott the movie themselves, the web page urges visitors to write letters to the theaters that are going to, or may eventually, show Moore's new movie.
Another conservative group, Citizens United, is reportedly planning to protest Moore's film with a television commercial.
The progressive grass-roots organization MoveOn.org is currently organizing a petition of citizens who will pledge to see the movie on its opening weekend.
One of the two distributors of the movie, Lions Gate Films, said in a statement, "It is unfortunate that people who don't want to see this film are trying to interfere with the rights of people who may want to decide for themselves. Regardless of a person's political perspective, we hope that everybody can agree that censorship is antithetical to the American way."
PEN USA condemns this deliberate attempt to limit members of the public from viewing this film and making their own decisions regarding its merits.
Stephen Rohde, Vice President of PEN's domestic Freedom to Write Committee and a First Amendment lawyer, said that "while private organizations have the right to speak out against films, books and other vehicles of communications and to even call for boycotts, when we see the work of an incumbent Administration and its political operatives working behind the scenes, it poses a grave danger to the First Amendment. We need to trust the American people to decide whether or not to see Michael Moore's new documentary"