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Inside Move: ‘Farenheit’ flash point

Moore doc courts Cannes with volatile pre-election pic

NEW YORK — The docu is called “Fahrenheit 911” and the title tells all: You can expect a lot of heat.

The question is, will this year’s Cannes fest be stoking the fire or burnt by its touch?

Political pundit Michael Moore is putting finishing touches on the docu, which covers the period before, during and immediately after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

“I can’t talk about the content right now,” Moore tells Variety. “It should not be discussed; it should be seen.”

However, others say that it contains potentially incendiary info on international attitudes toward U.S. foreign policy as well as historical ties between the families of President George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden.

Some suggest that Moore, in seeking a Cannes berth, might be looking for a high-profile perch from which to lob barbs at the Bush re-election campaign.

Moore denies any such agenda.

“Our goal since we started this almost two years ago was to have the film done by spring of 2004,” he explains. “The movie’s schedule is not determined by a political schedule.”

Moore says the film will be completed in time to screen at Cannes if it makes the selection.

Cannes, in its own quest for renewed relevance, is seeking to regain some of its glory after a lackluster 2003 edition.

Selection chief Thierry Fremaux is angling for an eclectic mix. In his first year on the job, Fremaux convinced Cannes prez Gilles Jacob to break with tradition and include a documentary in competition.

That docu was Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine,” which was a big hit at the fest and went on to gross $22 million for United Artists in the U.S., a record for a docu. It also won the Oscar.

Fremaux similarly fought to welcome animated features back into the Cannes fold, with “Shrek.” As part of Cannes’ move to be a more welcoming place for Hollywood, this year’s lineup includes DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2,” Disney’s “The Ladykillers” and MGM’s “De-lovely” in the official selection. And Quentin Tarantino will head the competition jury.

So will the Croisette heat up with “911”?

“They don’t usually show documentaries in Cannes,” Moore says, “but they made an exception with ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and we would be honored if they decided to show this film.” The film doesn’t yet have a U.S. distrib. Miramax stepped in to provide bridge financing, following the abrupt withdrawal of Mel Gibson‘s Icon Prods. from its original deal to finance “Fahrenheit.”

While the move places Miramax among favorites for North American rights, the company has not made a commitment on that front.

International sales on “Fahrenheit” are being handled by Paris-based outfit Wild Bunch.

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