Fahrenheit 911: The Walt Disney Co. and the co-chiefs of Miramax Films are near a deal that would allow director Michael Moore to find a new distributor for his controversial documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," company officials said on Wednesday.

Disney, Miramax's parent company, had refused to release the film that chronicles America's reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks and links President Bush's family and prominent Saudis that include the family of Osama bin Laden.

The film is set to premiere at the Cannes film festival, which began on Wednesday in the French Riviera city.

Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik said Disney had agreed to sell rights to Moore's film to Miramax co-chief executives Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob Weinstein, who could then go out and find a new distributor.

A Disney spokeswoman, however, characterized the parties as still being in negotiations.

"We are very happy that Disney has agreed to sell 'Fahrenheit 9/11' to Bob and Harvey," Hiltzik said in a statement. "Bob and Harvey look forward to promptly completing this transaction."

Said Disney spokeswoman Zenia Mucha: "Disney has offered to sell Miramax's interest in the film to either a third party or Harvey and Bob."

Hiltzik said the terms offered by the Weinsteins were similar to a 1999 deal for the movie "Dogma," in which director Kevin Smith challenged Catholic doctrines, raising the ire of some church groups.

In that arrangement, the Weinsteins bought the rights to "Dogma" from Miramax with Disney's agreement, and then signed their own deal to have independent film company Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. release the movie to theaters.

Disney's decision, which it said it had made a full year ago, spurred headlines last week when Moore, the filmmaker behind 2002's Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine," went public with the company's refusal to distribute his film.

Brian B.