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June 16, 2004 2:00 AM
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Cuomo to Spearhead 'R' Rating Appeal for "Fahrenheit 9/11"

Cuomo to Spearhead 'R' Rating Appeal for "Fahrenheit 9/11"

by Brian Brooks








Governonr Mario Cuomo announces his lead for a PG-13 rating for "Fahrenheit 9/11" with IFC Films head Jonathan Sehring (left) and Lions Gate Films chief Tom Ortenberg at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE.

Calling the war in Iraq "needless," former New York Democrat Governor Mario Cuomo announced Tuesday afternoon that he will spearhead the appeal to the MPAA seeking a 'PG-13' rating for Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." Alongside Lions Gate Films chief Tom Ortenberg and IFC Films head Jonathan Sehring, representing the two film companies who will distribute the film along with Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Fellowship Adventure Group, Cuomo praised the movie for exposing what he called the "grim reality" of the war.

"Michael Moore's film offers us the opportunity to debate the issue," said Cuomo at a quickly organized news conference in Manhattan Tuesday. "The opposition is going to try and stop the film, they don't want to make this an intelligent discussion."

"Fahrenheit 9/11" was given an 'R' rating by the MPAA after being voluntarily submitted for a rating by Lions Gate and IFC. The two companies are not MPAA signatory companies, meaning that their films are not regulated by the body but they are understood to have sought a rating to gain screening in movie theaters and advertise in newspapers that will not allow access to un-rated movies.

A movement to stop the movie's release, by targeting theater owners, emerged in the past few days led by Howard Kaloogian's group, Move America Forward. No doubt that battle could have been bolstered if the movie were un-rated. The organization also targeted CBS television earlier this year, getting the network's corporate execs to pull the TV movie "The Reagans" and air it on Showtime. And Kaloogian led the drive to recall former California governor Gray Davis.

When asked how the current 'R' rating might limit the film's reach to potential audiences, Ortenberg was not clear about what that impact would be. "[There is] 10-20% of the audience that is lost between an 'R' and 'PG-13', but it's hard to quantify," he said. "We want teens today, who will be required to fight in the next war, to be able to see [the film]."

Ortenberg added that he does not know if any changes will be made to the film in order to achieve the PG-13 rating, should they lose the MPAA appeal. While the distributors have yet to pinpoint the number of sites that will open "Fahrenheit 9/11" on June 25th, they have recently said it will range from 500 to 1000 theaters.

Governor Cuomo went on to challenge opponents of "Fahrenheit 9/11" to produce their own documentary that gives an "intelligent" counterpoint to the stinging criticisms the Cannes Palme d'Or-winning film heaps on the Bush Administration, including ties to the ruling House of Saud in Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden family as well as his intentions for going to war in the first place. "There's been a tough political effort to keep this film from being seen, that's obvious," continued Cuomo, who also mentioned he has seen the movie three times with his family.

"This is a wonderful chance for America to debate [the issue], but George Bush won't debate." Confirming that he will work to publicly promote the movie, Cuomo added that he does not believe the 'R' rating was part of a concerted effort to limit audiences who can see the film.

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