Michael Moore has made conservatives' temperatures rise with Fahrenheit 9/11's unflattering portrayal of President George W. Bush and his agenda. Now, some filmmakers on the right are responding by making their own Moore-style documentaries, some of them attacks on Moore himself using his own tactics. The first to hit theaters may be Celsius 41.11, which, as its title suggests, is a direct response to Fahrenheit. (According to the filmmakers, the title refers to the temperature at which the brain starts to die from heat, or from liberal rhetoric.) According to Variety, Hollywood screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd has whipped the documentary into existence in just six weeks, and he's rushing to finish it in time for a Sept. 28 booking at a Washington, D.C., theater.
''There will be a high-level of scholarship ... no cheap shots,'' says Chetwynd, frequently cited as the most outspoken conservative in otherwise left-leaning Hollywood. (He wrote last year's Showtime movie DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, which portrayed the president's response to the terror attacks in heroic terms.) ''This is not a manipulative film of the sort Michael Moore would make. ... We're keeping our hands clean.''
Funding for the movie comes from activist David Bossie's Citizen United. '' With all the hate and the anger and the rage built up by Michael Moore and groups like MoveOn.org, we just think they're not thinking rationally, so there needed to be a response,'' says Bossie, who tells Variety that his group will spend between $750,000 and $1 million to fund the project.
Bossie tried earlier this summer to hinder Fahrenheit by filing a pre-emptive complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing in June that campaign regulations should prohibit Moore from using advertisements featuring the president in July, as the conventions and the election approached. The FEC tossed the complaint against Moore (by late July, his film had already become the highest-grossing documentary ever made), but Variety reports that the commission has declined to grant Bossie a similar exemption for Celsius, meaning he won't be able to buy TV ads to promote the movie, which attacks presidential candidate John Kerry.
At least two other documentaries attack Moore using his own methods, especially his stalking of VIP targets in the hope of shaming them on camera. That's what filmmaker Michael Wilson does in Michael Moore Hates America, in which he pursues Moore himself in vain, just as Moore vainly pursued General Motors chief Roger Smith in Roger & Me. The other film, called Michael and Me, is radio talk show host Larry Elder's dissection of Moore's anti-gun arguments in Bowling for Columbine. Both films, which were in the works before Fahrenheit was released, premiered over the weekend at an all-conservative film festival in Dallas, where Wilson told reporters he was close to getting distribution for his movie.