“Fahrenheit” Heats Up More Controversy

Adding further flames to Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 9/11, the Hollywood Reporter reports a Web site speaking out against the filmmaker posted a link to an illegal file download of the documentary. In the process, it also attacked Moore‘s stance on copyright law.

The site MooreWatch.com posted a link June 27 to download the film and quotes Moore, as encouraging such downloading by saying: “I don’t agree with the copyright laws, and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people. As long as they’re not doing it to make a profit, you know, as long as they’re not trying to make a profit off my labor. I would oppose that.”

Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gate Films Releasing, which is distributing the film with IFC Films and Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s Fellowship Adventure Group, said Wednesday that his company is exploring legal action, the trade paper reports.

“I think it’s deplorable what enemies of Fahrenheit 9/11 are doing,” he said. “We are currently looking into our legal options. We are not going to tolerate anybody trying to infringe on (this film’s release).”

Since May, there have been reports of downloadable versions of Moore‘s movie on such file-sharing networks as Limewire and eDonkey, concurrent with the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. But according to BigChampagne, an online media measurement firm, Fahrenheit took the file-sharing networks by storm Sunday evening, according to the Reporter.

Along with the Internet skirmishes, the marketing and publicity effort surrounding Moore‘s anti-Bush documentary has begun to resemble an ongoing political campaign, including the almost daily stories being fed by both the film’s supporters and detractors.

Ortenberg told the Reporter that while he sees how parallels can be drawn between the film’s media strategy and the way a political campaign is run, his efforts are still solely aimed at promoting the film. “We’re just marketing the movie the best way we can,” he said. “And we’re absolutely not going to tolerate (attacks). Hit us and we will hit you back twice as hard.”

On Wednesday morning, the trade paper reports a news conference organized by the film’s distributors was held in front of a theater playing the film in New York, where members of the group Military Families Speak Out, who endorsed Moore‘s film, recounted personal tales of loved ones sent to Iraq.

Said MFSO member Nancy Lessin: “When the drumbeats for war were deafening, we had a sign (in our window) that said, ‘My son is a Marine. Don’t send him to war for oil!’ We didn’t want our loved ones to be sent around the world to be used as cannon fodder. I can’t tell you how important Michael Moore’s movie is in bringing back the
ability to have a dialogue.”

Moore‘s opponents have been just as dogged in their attacks. Earlier this week, the conservative group Move America Forward trumpeted the fact that it was hosting a screening of the documentary America’s Heart and Soul, which Disney’s Buena Vista Distribution arm is releasing nationwide Friday. Although Disney had planned the film’s Friday opening months ago–before Fahrenheit scored its own release date–and while Disney has screened the documentary, which looks at the country and its people, for a wide arrange of groups as part of an extensive grass-roots campaign, Heart‘s patriotic subject matter was immediately dragged into the furor over Fahrenheit.

Heart director Louis Schwartzberg told the Reporter he feels that he is caught in the crossfire. “Obviously it’s unfortunate to be caught in (the middle),” he said. “The two films are not in opposition. If anything, we’re on the same side. This is not a Pollyanna-ish look at America. They all assume that it’s a whitewash of America. I’m not ashamed that I love my country. This is a battle of money and egos, not even politics.”