"I decided to make a different film this time," director Michael Moore told a room full of journalists about "Sicko," his new film which screened for the first time this morning. "I wanted a different tone (and) to say things in a different way." Indeed, "Sicko" marks a distinctly different approach for a director who has been criticized for aggressive filmmaking tactics. Picking up on the more personal types of stories covered in his recent "Fahrenheit 9/11," Moore's moving new film is structured primarily around human interest tales of American's troubles with the U.S. health care system.
"(I am) tired of all the yelling and screaming and not getting anywhere," Moore said, hours before his film would have its official world premiere, adding that he did not want to be a part of that sort of approach.
In "Sicko," Moore spends a considerable amount of screen time examining the U.S. from vantage points in France, Great Britain and Canada. "Why do (Canadians), the French, the British (and the rest of) the Western World have a longer life expectancy?" Moore asked a journalist who questioned why this film overlooks some the inherent flaws in those health care systems. Moore admitted that those are not his battles to wage.
"The film is a call to action," Moore said, "The film is meant not for Michael Moore to go and do it, but for the American people to go and do it."
"Sicko" was met with considerable applause after its first showing here in Cannes, the audience also clapping during some key moments in the movie. It opens with brief snapshots of Americans without healthcare, but as Moore quickly notes in a voiceover, this film is about the "250 million who have health insurance, those of you who are living the American dream..."
Moore's explores a U.S. health system that denies service to Americans to increase its own profits and profiles numerous Americans who have been at odds with the U.S. system, some who've sought solutions outside the U.S. And during a climax that has already stirred media attention, Moore takes a group of 9/11 rescue workers to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where he says Al Qaeda detainees are given top notch healthcare. The afflicted Americans are ultimately treated by Cuban physicians before returning home.
U.S. authorities from the Treasury Department recently launched an investigation into Moore's trip, he said, requesting information on his travels. "They've known about this or my desire to go (to Cuba) since last October," Moore charged at the press conference, wondering why the action was taken ten days before the Cannes debut. He said there was concern that the authorities would try to block his film from screening here at the Festival, so a master copy of the movie was made and quickly transported out of the country.
"I would hope by now, especially as I begin to enter the discourse with this new film, that I could catch a break." Moore told the media on Saturday, "That somebody will at some point say, 'you know, OK maybe we don't like the way this guy looks, but he warned us about General Motors, he warned us about the school shootings, he warned us about Bush and the reasons for this war and we didn't listen."
"It is my (profound) hope that people will listen this time with this film, because I don't want to ten or twenty years before we have universal health coverage in America and I don't want to wait ten or twenty years before we as Americans take a look into our soul so that we can become better citizens in this world."
JA Media's $200 Million Expansion To Back New Projects From Leading Asian Filmmakers
Beijing-based JA Media has announced it will invest US$200 million in film and television production over the next five years. The new company initially entered the film business earlier this year with a $30 million investment in five pictures and today's announcement comes as those films move towards the start of production in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.
JA Media, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Jian Group which generally focuses on new energy resources in biochemicals, hired Hong Kong-based consultants Nansun Shi, Jeffery Chan and Stanley Kwan to develop its move into entertainment. Nanshun Shi (Film Workshop's principal and producer of "Infernal Affairs"), and Chan (formerly of Media Asia) will focus on distribution, while Kwan ("Rouge") will handle production. The company will produce and distribute its own TV and film output, and is setting up advertising and talent management divisions.
JA Media's $200 million commitment will be used for feature film budgets ranging from $1 - 12 million, with $10 million a year earmarked for television production. The company's goal is to make 25 features in the five-year period.
Their impressive current slate includes work from filmmakers Tsui Hark, Stanley Kwan, and Ann Hui, as well as co-producing partners Jacky Pang (from Wong Kar-wai's Jet-Tone) and Stephen Chow (from Star Overseas). Hui's entry, an $8 million adaptation of Denise Chong's bestseller Concubine's Children, is courting Chow Yun Fat for its lead role.
"It's a corporate world," Hui told indieWIRE. "Individual filmmakers get lost. To ensure artistic integrity, [this is] very necessary."
Additionally, Kwan will take on the $12 million "Bruce," centered on the relationship between Bruce Lee and his son Brandon; "She Ain't Mean" is a "hi-frequency comedy" directed by Tsui Hark; Stephen Fung will make "Jump," a Shanghai-set dance drama; and "Miao Miao," a Taipei drama about two schoolgirls, will be helmed by Cheng Hsiao Zer. Production is expected to commence on all these films by early next year.
JA Media is headed by president Guo Jun and managing director Elvis Lee, who made the announcement on Saturday morning in Cannes. "We feel our philosophy is to get into this business and run it like a very structured corporation," said Lee. "Like in any business, the most important [thing] is the professionalism of the people [involved]." [Peter Knegt]
The latest from the 2007 Festival de Cannes is available anytime in indieWIRE's special section.