Even the haters agree this film is genius!

Michael Moore, whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that he's absolutely brilliant at calling attention to his cause. Moore has the American health care system in his sites here. Sicko is at once appalling, sad, hilarious, and empowering. It is an amazing film and Michael Moore's best work yet. I'm sure every health carrier has the lawyers drawing up talking points this weekend, because this issue hit's to the core and will resonate to the public. Moore was a spectacle on display during the Sicko press conference. He argued his case, chastised his critics, and kept everyone in stitches with his sharp humor. Might be time to start polishing the mantle for another Oscar.

Can you comment on the difficulties you've had bringing this film to the screen, especially where the administration is concerned?

Michael Moore: The Bush administration sent me a certified letter ten days before the Cannes Film Festival informing me that I was under investigation for criminal and civil penalties. I took a group of 9/11 workers that were not receiving health care from the injuries they incurred from helping down at Ground Zero. I took them to Cuba. It's illegal for an American to travel to Cuba unless you're a journalist. A documentary film is a work of journalism. No laws were broken. It's just an attempt by the Bush administration to use our federal agencies, as they've done in the past, to politically harass opponents. My lawyers felt to protect the film we had to make a duplicate master and store it in Canada, in case they tried to confiscate the negatives. Now, for me to have to say these words in a free country, or go after me as a documentary filmmaker is an absurd thing for me to deal with. But I guess we're used to absurdity in the last seven years.

Do you think this film will have an impact and change the system?

Michael Moore: I do these films because I do believe that things can change. I believe the American people, when they've had enough, do make their feelings known. Earlier this year, without any organization or movement, the American public stopped O.J.'s book from being published and resulted in the publisher getting fired. That's an amazing thing. How did it happen? They didn't want this book. How did this happen without money, PR, and ads on TV? I believe the American public has had it with this health care system, and will rise up and demand change. I hope this film adds the spark.

What happened with the owner of the anti-Michael Moore website and the money you anonymously sent him for his wife?

Michael Moore: I called him before the first screening at Cannes. I didn't want him to get a call from one of you guys. The decent thing to do was to let him know I sent the check. I left a voicemail message on his phone; within fifteen minutes that message was on his site. It's still there if anyone want to hear it. He immediately posted a very nice note thanking me. Of course he's a blogger, so depending on the day he's up or down. (laughs) But generally, he's been very thankful and grateful. People who worked with me on the film that he would be really ticked off. I was the lone dissenter in that group. I thought he would really respond well to an act of kindness; and even though we may have political disagreements, this was coming from a place in heart that believes that he deserves quality health care and shouldn't have to pay for it.

Your agenda is fairly altruistic. Can you explain why so many people dislike you?

Michael Moore: Who dislikes me? Do you have a list? What are there names? (laughs) Seriously, I feel like I'm in a time warp. Ask me that question at the Oscars four years ago and I would agree with you, now seventy percent of the American public agrees with me. Seventy percent of the country does not agree with Mr. Bush or the war. I'm actually in the mainstream majority, which is a little weird. I don't sit on the edge. Four plus years ago I was booed off the Oscar stage in the fifth day of the war; daring to suggest that we were being led into war for fictitious reasons. People didn't want to hear that. I understand that. Eventually they came around and realized what I was saying on that Oscar stage and in Fahrenheit 9/11 was the truth. People remember that three years ago I went to Walter Reed hospital and showed how the soldiers were being treated. The mainstream media didn't deal with it until a few months ago. That is the story of my life as a filmmaker. From General Motors, where they're facing bankruptcy, to Bowling for Columbine, where we still have that school shooting a couple of months ago, to Fahrenheit 9/11; that's the way it is.

(get's a call from Ari Emmanuel)

Michael Moore: You guys want to hear?

(puts phone on speaker)

Michael Moore: Hey Ari, you're on speaker phone at a press conference with a hundred journalists. You want to say hi?

(pause)

Ari Emmanuel: Oh...Oh fuck...

(everyone explodes into laughter)

Ari Emmanuel: Oh, I'll bite my tongue, the damn press! How's the press doing?

Michael Moore: It doesn't look like they fed them very well. I've always believed a well-fed press tells the truth.

Ari Emmanuel: I agree with that.

Michael Moore: Would you like me to call you back later?

Ari Emmanuel: Yeah, we have to go through two or three things.

(hangs up)

Michael Moore: (laughs) Yeah, that show (infers HBO's "Entourage") is like a PG version of the real thing. I'm very sorry to interrupt.

You've stated you're films are documentaries, but Sicko is being marketed as a comedy. Do you see yourself as a comedian, and entertainer?

Michael Moore: I consider myself a satirist, and satire has always been considered to be a form of journalism. The Op-Ed pages of newspapers, years ago, always contained great satire. Mark Twain, Will Rogers, in the old days; people didn't thank that humor was divorced from politics, opinion, journalism. My films are like the Op-Ed page. It's opinion based on fact. I'm also trying to make a film. I'm not running a political movement. I'm not a preacher. I'm a filmmaker. So first and foremost, I'm trying to make a film that people are going to go to on Friday night. I want them to walk out of that theater with an exhilarated sense of 'wow'. Don't we all feel that when we go to the movies? How often do we get that? That's what I'm trying to do. I will take you to a place you've never been. I will take you on a boat into Guantanamo Bay. I will show you Mr. Richard Nixon talking about where we got these HMO's. You've never seen that before. Stuff you're not going to get on the evening news, and hopefully you'll find it funny.

What was your starting point for Sicko?

Michael Moore: We started from something from my TV show, where we saved this guy's life by embarrassing his health insurance company into paying for an operation. I thought, what if we did ten of these? That was the original idea. But as I started, I realized that eighteen thousand people die each year in America because they don't have health insurance. God knows how may die with health insurance. So, I started thinking maybe we should take on the larger system, not just one company, or one person's problem. I made a conscious decision to change the film. Then, when we asked for people's stories on the internet, the majority of people had health insurance. The horror stories, the things they had to go through when they thought they were fully covered. Wait till you get a severe illness. Watch what your health insurance company does to not pay the bill. They can't make a profit if they pay these bills.

Your trip to Cuba has really been at the center of the controversy. Many ex-patriots feel you've portrayed the Cubans and their government in a kinder, gentler way. What's your response to that?

Michael Moore: First of all, when you talk about the Cuban community in Miami, they can't accuse me of anything because they haven't seen the movie yet. So first see the movie. I think when they see the movie they'll see that their relatives and neighbors in Cuba are receiving the best health care possible; considering it's a poor country. This isn't Michael Moore saying this. All the world health organizations have agreed that the Cubans have a very good health care system. I don't think that's news. The important thing to remember here is that I wasn't going to Cuba. I was going to Guantanamo Bay, to American soil on the island of Cuba. We were going there because after meeting these 9/11 rescue workers, who were suffering from injuries received at Ground Zero, I saw Senator Frist going on about how well the detainees at Gitmo were being taken care of; in terms of free universal health care, dental care, and eye care. They were getting better health care than millions of Americans. I thought it was ironic that the people accused of plotting 9/11 were getting better health care from our government than the people who ran down to save lives at Ground Zero. It made absolutely no sense. That's what upsets the Bush administration. Because I'm going to tell my fellow Americans that the heroes of 9/11 are being ignored by the same government that says they are there for them. It's not true. I'm ashamed of that as an American. That's why we went down to Guantanamo Bay. Don't question my patriotism. I am a patriotic American. The most patriotic thing you can do is to question your government.

Julian Roman at Movieweb
Julian Roman