Saturday, August 05, 2006

Michael Moore and "Jesus Camp"

Michael Moore fest ignores plea to pull film.

Ignoring a request to remove the documentary "Jesus Camp" from its lineup, Michael Moore's Traverse City (Mich.) Film Festival plans two screenings of the film, one Friday and one Saturday.

The documentary, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, looks at a summer camp for born-again Christian children, and has won top jury awards at this year's Tribeca Film Festival and AFI SilverDocs Film Festival.

After Magnolia Films acquired North American distribution rights last week, the company asked festival organizers to drop the film because it was concerned that any association with the polarizing director of "Fahrenheit 9/11" could damage its prospects in conservative circles.

"The reality of the world we live in today is that if Michael Moore endorses it, tens of millions will automatically reject it," said Magnolia Films president Eamonn Bowles.

Because the film presents the material in a manner that is considered by many who have seen it as fair and objective, Bowles considers it "a Rorshach test. It's very neutral, right down the middle, and different people take away different things from it."

He plans to release "Jesus" in more conservative Christian markets where art films aren't commonly shown, in addition to the indie company's traditional art house venues.

The film's producers originally gave the festival permission to screen the film several weeks ago, before Magnolia became involved. Magnolia sent a formal letter to the festival a week ago asking that it cancel its scheduled screenings but did not hear back, Bowles said late Thursday.

A festival staff member confirmed that the movie is scheduled to screen Friday and Saturday afternoons at the two-year-old festival. Calls to festival directors seeking further comment were not returned.