Official Frank Serpico Blog
Thursday, May 06, 2004
May 5, 2004
Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush
By JIM RUTENBERG
WASHINGTON, May 4 - The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax
division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that
harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax
The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis -
including the family of Osama bin Laden - and criticizes Mr. Bush's
actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Disney, which bought Miramax more than a decade ago, has a contractual
agreement with the Miramax principals, Bob and Harvey Weinstein,
allowing it to prevent the company from distributing films under certain
circumstances, like an excessive budget or an NC-17 rating.
Executives at Miramax, who became principal investors in Mr. Moore's
project last spring, do not believe that this is one of those cases,
people involved in the production of the film said. If a compromise is
not reached, these people said, the matter could go to mediation, though
neither side is said to want to travel that route.
In a statement, Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Miramax, said: "We're
discussing the issue with Disney. We're looking at all of our options
and look forward to resolving this amicably."
But Disney executives indicated that they would not budge from their
position forbidding Miramax to be the distributor of the film in North
America. Overseas rights have been sold to a number of companies,
"We advised both the agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film
would not be distributed by Miramax," said Zenia Mucha, a company
spokeswoman, referring to Mr. Moore's agent. "That decision stands."
Disney came under heavy criticism from conservatives last May after the
disclosure that Miramax had agreed to finance the film when Icon
Productions, Mel Gibson's company, backed out.
Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief
executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax.
Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would
endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other
ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.
"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein;
that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr. Emanuel said. "He definitely
indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney
corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He
didn't want a Disney company involved."
Disney executives deny that accusation, though they said their
displeasure over the deal was made clear to Miramax and Mr. Emanuel.
A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company had the right to
quash Miramax's distribution of films if it deemed their distribution to
be against the interests of the company. The executive said Mr. Moore's
film is deemed to be against Disney's interests not because of the
company's business dealings with the government but because Disney
caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore's
film, which does not have a release date, could alienate many.
"It's not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a
highly charged partisan political battle," this executive said.
Miramax is free to seek another distributor in North America, but such a
deal would force it to share profits and be a blow to Harvey Weinstein,
a big donor to Democrats.
Mr. Moore, who will present the film at the Cannes film festival this
month, criticized Disney's decision in an interview on Tuesday, saying,
"At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening
in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call
the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?'
Mr. Moore's films, like "Roger and Me" and "Bowling for Columbine," are
often a political lightning rod, as Mr. Moore sets out to skewer what he
says are the misguided priorities of conservatives and big business.
They have also often performed well at the box office. His most recent
movie, "Bowling for Columbine," took in about $22 million in North
America for United Artists. His books, like "Stupid White Men," a
jeremiad against the Bush administration that has sold more than a
million copies, have also been lucrative.
Mr. Moore does not disagree that "Fahrenheit 911" is highly charged, but
he took issue with the description of it as partisan. "If this is
partisan in any way it is partisan on the side of the poor and working
people in this country who provide fodder for this war machine," he
Mr. Moore said the film describes financial connections between the Bush
family and its associates and prominent Saudi Arabian families that go
back three decades. He said it closely explores the government's role in
the evacuation of relatives of Mr. bin Laden from the United States
immediately after the 2001 attacks. The film includes comments from
American soldiers on the ground in Iraq expressing disillusionment with
the war, he said.
Mr. Moore once planned to produce the film with Mr. Gibson's company,
but "the project wasn't right for Icon," said Alan Nierob, an Icon
spokesman, adding that the decision had nothing to do with politics.
Miramax stepped in immediately. The company had distributed Mr. Moore's
1997 film, "The Big One." In return for providing most of the new film's
$6 million budget, Miramax was positioned to distribute it.
While Disney's objections were made clear early on, one executive said
the Miramax leadership hoped it would be able to prevail upon Disney to
sign off on distribution, which would ideally happen this summer, before
the election and when political interest is high.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Over the last couple of weeks there have been a couple of articles in the New York Daily News which mention me. I wanted to respond in the Daily News, but due to limited space in the letters to the editor section, they severely edited and shortened my response (the shortened response appeared in last Sunday's paper.) I have posted my entire response below for those of you who would like to read it.
Former NYPD Lt. Sees No Evil
Former Lt. Hughes (Voice of the People, Police Story, April 25) claims that during his 21 years in the NYPD in 10 different commands, "I never saw corruption," concluding that it therefore does not exist. I guess Mr. Hughes never heard of the Mollen Commission on his watch, or Abner Louima, or Amadou Diallo, or the Dirty Thirty (Precinct), or the current on-going investigation by the Feds into NYPD narcotics cops caught taking money on surveillance tapes by the DEA.
Poster-child narcotics detective Ed Conlon claims that Serpico "was a very strange man," (Rush & Molloy, April 22) because he carried a pet mouse (but, he omits that this mouse was part of my disguise while working as an undercover narc), and that the movie Serpico “was too kind to its subject.” The movie, unfortunately, was too kind to the NYPD. Conlon told the news, "If Serpico knows people who have complaints, they ought to come forward." He makes it sound so easy. We have seen repeatedly, that the NYPD does not make it easy for officers to report instances of corruption. More often than not, the person reporting the corruption is ostracized and suffers negative consequences as a result – just ask Joe Trimboli of the Mollen Commission. Giuliani vetoed an independent board on police corruption a number of times when he was in office and we have seen the ineffectiveness of the CCRB again and again. Maybe the Latino and Black Officer's Association should have gone to Conlon when bringing their discrimination suit against the NYPD? Or the officers who were transferred to other units because they wouldn't play the quota game when the Police Union turned its back on them? If Conlon wanted to know how it was 30 years ago, he should have asked me, he made no such attempt.
Mr. Hughes says I should “be ashamed of myself” -- for what, for doing my job and being an honest man? It’s now over 30 years since I reported widespread police corruption within the NYPD. They are still trying to malign my name and minimize what took place – it’s way past time that the NYPD take responsibility for the issue of corruption and take action within its forces rather than trying to minimize the issue and cover it up.
NYPD Detective Retired
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