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Festival Life, by Alexandra Gill
Crusading cineaste shakes up the doe-eyed

By ALEXANDRA GILL, The Globe and Mail
September 7, 2002

It's beginning to feel a lot like . . . normal. Leave it to Michael Moore, the U.S. filmmaker, anticorporate demagogue, best-selling author and all-around hilarious guy, to lift the veil of silence on the taboo festival subject of Sept. 11 and lead the charge against "multimillionaire terrorism."

"Why are they referring to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network as Islamic terrorists? " Mr. Moore asked a doe-eyed assembly of mostly U.S. journalists at yesterday's press conference to promote his new film, Bowling For Columbine. "This is a military operation, funded by a government [the Taliban] that has been friendly to the Bush family for years."

Raging onward, Mr. Moore explained why he believes President George W. Bush and "his cronies" are using Sept. 11 as a weapon to keep the U.S. population paralyzed by fear. It's the larger theme, he added, of his manifesto against the United States's obsession with guns, the culture of violence and "the fact that we've just gone nuts."

You could almost hear the Canadian contingent in the room breathe a sigh of relief as Mr. Moore blasted the floodgates open. But please don't mistake Mr. Moore's vehemence for vitriol. "I love my country," he declared. This film, he says, is a plea to "make it better."

Try telling that to the owners of Regal Cinemas, the largest theatre chain in the United States, which recently decreed (according to Mr. Moore) that Bowling for Columbine will never be shown on their screens.

It's pretty safe to presume that Regal has little interest in screening another documentary that premieres on Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival. Rebel Without a Pause: Unrestrained Reflections on September 11, stars Reno (no last name, la Madonna), a New York-based standup comic and unrepentant left winger musing on the state of her neighbourhood -- "Tribecistan."

Michael Moore's depiction of Canada as a nation of trusting souls who never lock their doors has evoked some laughter and suspicion. (Is he perhaps fudging the truth to make a point?)

If Mr. Moore wanted to see Canadians at their belligerent worst, all he had to do was stroll down to Roy Thomson Hall after his press conference to see the hordes of fans and hostile journalists battle it out for a piece of Michelle Pfeiffer. The blond beauty graced the red carpet for the gala premiere of White Oleander, Peter Kosminsky's tale of a mother and daughter separated by prison, foster homes and a murder.

As I politely inched my way into the media scrum, I was growled at by angry fans, nearly plowed down by a screaming autograph hound and then elbowed out of the way, quite forcefully, by a television cameraman. (He left a big bruise).

There's a new It Boy in town and his name is David Alpay. The fourth-year University of Toronto medical student make his acting debut as Arsinée Khanjian's son in Atom Egoyan's Ararat.

While Mr. Alpay looked somewhat shell-shocked by all the attention after the gala on Thursday night, by yesterday he seemed to be warming up to the swarm of babes around him.


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