It's Just Sick: Moore's Film Rocks Cannes
Documentarian Michael Moore's latest film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival today to an enthusiastic welcome. Sicko takes on what Moore claims is a stilted and unjust system of privatized healthcare, in which ordinary citizens are squeezed by managed-care companies and pharmaceutical giants. Moore's journey to Cuba for one segment of the film has given his opponents ammunition in their quest to silence the film.
"Sicko," Michael Moore's ferocious and funny attack on the U.S. health care system, got a warm welcome at the Cannes Film festival Saturday. At home, it has started a firestorm.
The movie doesn't open until late June, but it has already been criticized by conservative politicians and sparked a U.S. government investigation that could land Moore a fine or jail time.
"I know the storm awaits me back in the United States," said Moore as he absorbed the enthusiastic response of critics and journalists after the film's first Cannes screening. Moore held a private showing Tuesday in New York for a group of ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers featured in the film.
Moore's previous films were praised and reviled in equal measure. Americans will likely be just as divided by "Sicko" -- especially scenes in which Moore takes the sick 9/11 rescuers to Cuba for treatment.
The trip led the U.S. Treasury Department to investigate Moore for possibly breaking the U.S. trade and travel embargo on Cuba.
Some have said the investigation is giving the film valuable free publicity. Not Moore.
"I'm the one who's personally being investigated, and I'm the one who's personally liable for potential fines or jail, so I don't take it as lightly," he said.
On the advice of lawyers, the filmmakers spirited a master copy of "Sicko" outside the United States in case the government tries to seize it. As for whether the inquiry could prevent the film opening in the U.S. as planned on June 29, Moore said: "We haven't even discussed that possibility."
Moore is a Cannes favorite. His last film, the war-on-terror documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" won the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, in 2004. "Sicko" is screening out of competition -- Moore joked that he didn't want to appear like a "typical American" by greedily seeking another trophy.
Moore says he knows "Sicko" will have enemies, especially within the Bush administration and the health insurers he accuses of abandoning sick Americans.