Filmmaker Moore: Illness knows no political stripe

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2007

When Michael Moore releases one of his new documentaries, it's hard to turn on the television without seeing him or a talk-show talking head debating his methods.

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Publicity is no problem for the 53-year-old Moore, Academy-Award winning director of "Bowling for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 9/11" and the month-old "SiCKO."

The bigger question is whether he's simply preaching to a left-wing choir.

"I have no say where the films are going to go, but I lobby very hard for what I think the plan should be," said Moore by telephone, as part of a cross-country, small-market media blitz to promote the movie. "With my films, they're not inclined to put them in the red states as much.

"But my feeling is, especially with this film, that's exactly where it should be," he said. "That's why I made this film in a very nonpartisan spirit. I put both the Democrats and the Republicans at blame."

"SiCKO," a scathing assault on the health care industry and the country's lack of a universal health care system, opened in Juneau on July 20 at Glacier Cinemas in the Mendenhall Valley. It moves Friday to the 20th Century Theatre downtown.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" was much anticipated in June 2004, but opened at the 20th Century on July 8, two weeks after the national release. "Bowling for Columbine" took almost six months to get here.

Moore pushed the Weinstein Co., the film's producers and financiers, to promote the film in Anchorage as part of its national release. He later advocated for Juneau, where it debuted 23 days after the June 29 opening.

"How many documentaries play up there?" Moore said. "I would guess the penguins ("March of the Penguins") did fairly well.

"People up in Alaska have the same issues and problems, even more so on some level, than we do in the Lower 48," he said. "I approached the movie from the standpoint that illness knows no political stripe. You can get sick if you're a Democrat or a Republican. You're going to find yourself going broke no matter what your politics are."

"SiCKO" takes a harrowing, pessimistic look at America's medical bureaucracy. Through his Web site, Moore solicited calls for health care system horror stories. He received more than 25,000 replies, only a few of which made the film. Amidst the darkness, though, there is hope, Moore said.

"I couldn't keep doing this if I wasn't an optimist," he said. "I do believe that things will change, and it will change I think with the next administration.

"No matter how much money the politicians get from the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies, the (health care) executives still have only one vote when they go into the voting booth. There's more of us than there are of them."

When "SiCKO" opened in early July in Anchorage, three Alaska Senate Democrats seized the occasion to publicize Senate Bill 160. The bill would establish the Alaska Health Care Program, a mandatory health insurance system.

It has not been heard by the Legislature.

"Statewide plans are being proposed in a number of places, like California," Moore said. "But that's not going to fix the system. We don't need 50 health care plans. We need one plan for all Americans."

One of the most chilling characters in the film is a French doctor who believes that the lack of a universal health care system in the United States is simply a reflection of the character of Americans.

There's no such system here, the Frenchman says, because Americans are unwilling to pay to support a comprehensive plan.

"He's commenting mostly on the character of man," Moore said. "Will we ever get to the point of seeing that each of us is in the same boat? The answer to his question is: The jury is out."

• Korry Keeker canbe reached at 523-2268 or korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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