The Associated Press

September 10, 2004, Friday, BC cycle

Dallas film festival aims to get it right – right-wing, that is

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: Entertainment News

LENGTH: 828 words

DATELINE: DALLAS

A new film festival promises plenty of election-year intrigue, from allegations of political deceit leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks to explanations of the “real reasons” America went to war in Iraq.

But don’t expect any liberals at the American Film Renaissance, a conservative-style film festival where “Michael Moore Hates America” will make its world premiere on Sunday.

“For 40 years now, conservatives have screamed and they’ve organized groups like Move America Forward to start boycotts,” said Jim Hubbard, a self-proclaimed independent conservative who is organizing the festival with his wife, Ellen. “We believe that’s the wrong approach. We believe more speech is good for the country, not less.”

The Hubbards bill the three-day Dallas event, which was set to begin Friday, as a first-of-its-kind showcase of conservative films. It follows the huge success of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Moore’s critically acclaimed film slamming President Bush’s war on terror.

At this festival, “Mega Fix – The Dazzling Political Deceit That Led to 9/11” will take aim at former President Clinton, while “Confronting Iraq” delves into “what you didn’t hear about the threat Iraq posed to America.”

“George W. Bush: Faith in the White House” will portray a Christian man shaping a nation’s destiny, as “Beyond the Passion of the Christ: The Impact” explores “the powerful and often stunning impact” of Mel Gibson’s R-rated crucifixion epic.

“It’s about time,” said Los Angeles radio talk-show host Larry Elder, a libertarian who describes the festival as a chance to promote pro-American, traditional values.

Elder’s film “Michael & Me” will debut, challenging the gun control advocacy seen in the 2002 documentary “Bowling for Columbine,” which won Moore an Academy Award.

“Instead of whining about the lack of conservative material, it is up to the nonliberals to make their own stuff,” said Elder, who brags about his $1 million film’s ambush interview with Moore. “In my case, I took out a home equity loan for this film because I wanted it to be my own vision.”

Mike Wilson, the 28-year-old director of “Michael Moore Hates America,” said his $250,000 film stemmed from righteous indignation over what he considered inaccuracies in Moore’s works.

The Minneapolis resident insists his film is no hatchet job on Moore. He said it’s a journey across America in which interviews with celebrities, scholars and average folks show that the American Dream lives.

“To me, Michael Moore has always believed that America is a place where the cards are stacked against you,” Wilson said. “And I’ve always believed that America is a place where anything is possible.”

In a June interview, Moore told the Hollywood Reporter he was familiar with the title of Wilson’s film but doubted it actually existed. “You’re being duped by the kooky right,” he said. “I’ve been waiting to see this movie. It sounds like great science fiction.”

Moore didn’t return an e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Don North, a 65-year-old journalist and filmmaker from Fairfax, Va., was embedded with U.S. troops during the 2003 invasion into Iraq.

His documentary “Remembering Saddam,” which will be shown in Dallas, tells the story of seven Iraqi men whose right hands were chopped off after they crossed Saddam Hussein.

North denies any political agenda.

“I’m just happy to have any forum because I really think Iraq is a complex problem,” he said.

Other titles at the festival include “Brainwashing 101,” about colleges teaching students to fear capitalism; “Against Nature,” which suggests prominent environmentalists put personal interests over fighting Third World poverty; and “The Peace Commies,” concerning “subversive radicals behind the peace movement.”

Given the left’s embrace of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a $6 million film that has collected $117.3 million in the United States this summer, more than any documentary ever, political experts say it’s no surprise the right has responded with a film festival of its own.

The question is whether movies on either side simply serve those who already subscribe to a point of view, said Dennis Simon, a Southern Methodist University political scientist who teaches a course on politics and film.

“The people in the middle, I don’t know how many of them venture out to political films,” Simon said.

The Hubbards, both law school graduates in their early 30s, said their goal is not to stifle the left but to give the right a voice.

“We like to go to art-house films, but invariably, they’re left of center,” Ellen Hubbard said. “Or you go to a cineplex, where the films may not be overtly liberal, but they’ll slip in little messages that are critical of our foreign policy or our president. It just seems like a constant barrage of criticism against our ideology. We just kind of get tired of it.”

On the Net:

American Film Renaissance: http://www.afrfilmfestival.com

GRAPHIC: AP Photo TXDM101

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