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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Moore film shows 'US Iraqi abuse'
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online correspondent in Cannes

Still from Fahrenheit 9/11
The film criticises the Bush administration
Oscar-winning director Michael Moore has screened at Cannes what he claims is the first film footage of US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.

It appears in his new documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 which also explores alleged connections between the Bush and Bin Laden families.

The abuse "occurred in the field - outside the prison walls", Moore told the film festival.

The White House declined to comment on this issue.

Moore's film, which received its world premiere in Cannes, France, on Monday, shows what appear to be US soldiers putting hoods on Iraqi prisoners.

Moore, who won an Oscar last year for Bowling For Columbine, said he sent three under-cover film crews to Iraq.

"You saw this morning the first footage of abuse and humiliation of these Iraqi detainees," he told reporters on Monday.

What this film is going to do is to peel back the layers so the [American] people can see what is really going on
Michael Moore on one example of alleged abuse

The world had seen now notorious photographs from Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad - but no photos or footage from outside a prison until now, he said.

He also slated the relationship between UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mr Bush, saying: "The one thing you can say about Blair is that he's smart. What is he doing hanging out with this guy? They make the weirdest couple I've ever seen.

"I know his misses his old buddy Bill Clinton - but to settle for this? Brits, aren't you embarrassed?"

On Saturday, President Bush said he would not allow any more abuses by US troops in Iraq. But he also said the abuses were restricted to Abu Ghraib.

Soldiers in Moore's film were shown outdoors ridiculing a man covered in a blanket on the ground, calling him "Ali Baba".

"It was an older man who was actually drunk, and it was early in the morning, and he was lying on the ground on a stretcher with a blanket over him," Moore said.

Michael Moore at Cannes
The director's movie has been the talk of the festival

The footage was shot in Samarra in December 2003, he told BBC News Online, but did not reply when asked which military division was involved.

He said it was "disgraceful" that it took him, using stringers and freelance camera crews in Iraq, to bring such footage to the public.

"The American people do not like things being kept from them, and I think what this film is going to do is to peel back the layers so the people can see what is really going on," he said.

"They are going to be shocked and they are going to be in awe - and they are going to respond accordingly, he said - alluding to his aim of convincing voters not to re-elect Mr Bush in November's presidential election.

The film also alleges Saudis, including those with links to the Bin Laden family, had funded oil and arms companies run by the Bush family and their inner circle. And the film claims the military operation in Afghanistan was carried out purely so a natural gas pipeline could be built through the country.

Moore has said the White House has tried to stop the film being made and released because they are afraid of the effect it could have on November's election.

He told BBC News Online someone "connected to the White House" and a "top Republican" had put pressure on film companies not to fund Fahrenheit 9/11.

'Not shocked'

When asked what evidence he had, he said: "I only know what I was told by my agent. That's all I know.

"I don't know who made the calls. I don't know what was said."

Film studio Disney has refused to distribute the film and Moore is now having trouble finding another distributor to release the film on his preferred 4 July release date.

Film critic Derek Malcolm gave his verdict on the film to News Online, saying: "I think it's over-long and quite boring in parts but it is strong in other sections.

"It is a more even-handed offering than Moore's previous films. But one is not very shocked by the film. It certainly won't win [John] Kerry the [US] election."

Michael Moore at Cannes
Moore has alleged the invasion of Afghanistan was for a pipeline to be built

And the Hollywood Reporter described it as "angry polemic against the president, the Bush family and the administration's foreign policy".

"There is no debate, no analysis of facts or search for historical context. Moore simply wants to blame one man and his family for the mess we are now in," it said.

Meanwhile, labour unrest threatens to hit the film festival on Monday with unions urging hotel and restaurant workers to go on strike for more pay.

The new action is designed to push hoteliers, restaurateurs and cafe owners to increase their staff wages by 5% and throw in a 200 euro (135, $240) bonus for each worker.




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