Michael Moore Conquers AFI Fest With ‘Where to Invade Next’ Premiere

Michael Moore and an army of fans stormed AFI Fest Saturday night for the West Coast premiere of “Where to Invade Next,” the latest cinematic provocation from the documentarian behind hot-button films “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine.”

The film, Moore’s first directorial effort since “Capitalism: A Love Story” debuted six years ago, finds the populist auteur “invading” other countries – namely Iceland, Finland, Italy and France – to discover how they tackle their most pressing socioeconomic issues and determine whether those methods could ever be successfully implemented in the United States.

“The challenge we created for ourselves was to tell the story of America, but go elsewhere to do it,” Moore said, adding that the film was partially inspired by his emotional reaction to Ava DuVernay’s civil rights drama “Selma,” which featured British actor David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Centerpiece Gala screening was held at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Red carpet attendees included “Law & Order” actor Sam Waterston and Moore’s longtime producers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. The after party took place at the Roosevelt Hotel, where food and cocktails were served while Moore held court in the main lobby.

Where to Invade Next,” which had its world premiere last September at the Toronto Film Festival, was recently selected as the opening film for the AFI Docs Film Series, a year-round documentary screening program held at the Landmark E Street Cinema in Washington, DC.

“We don’t typically showcase documentaries at AFI Fest, but this film is more than a documentary,” AFI Fest director Jacqueline Lyanga said during her introduction. “It’s subversive but accessible, and I think it possesses the power to inspire real change.”

“We live in fictional times,” Moore added. “So the more non-fiction, the better.”

The gala event marked the end of a busy week for Moore, who took to Twitter on Monday to rail against the MPAA for slapping “Where to Invade Next” with an R-rating for “language, some violent images, drug use and brief graphic nudity.” Moore argued that the offending material, which includes footage of Eric Garner’s death while in the custody of Staten Island police officers, serves a public good by illustrating what he claims are the ugly realities behind many Americans’ growing distrust in law enforcement.

During a post-screening Q&A with Lyanga, Moore revealed that he still plans to appeal the MPAA’s decision. “Teenagers are probably the most important audience for this film, and I want them to see it. I believe that there’s always an underlying political thing going on with the MPAA, and we’re going to fight them hard this time.”

Former Radius TWC co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego are rolling out “Where to Invade Next” with the help of Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League. The film is the first acquisition of the trio’s newly formed distribution company, which still lacks an official name. League has helped secure stateside releases for other acclaimed non-fiction works through his Drafthouse Films label, including last year’s Nick Cave concert film “20,000 Days on Earth” and the Oscar-nominated doc “The Act of Killing” in 2013.

“It’s an extraordinary film, and [Moore] is an extraordinary filmmaker,” Quinn said during the AFI after party, adding that the decision to acquire the title was an easy one after seeing the galvanizing effect it had on audiences.

“Where to Invade Next” opens Dec. 23 for an Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles and New York before expanding nationwide on Jan. 15.

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