By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
In mid-July, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 opened in France and made $3.4 million, showing on only 222 screens across the country. That weekend, in a single theater in Paris, a movie showed up that looked suspiciously like Moore's, only it had been made a year earlier by a woman from Texas who was her own film crew. It didn't make much money, but it left quite an impression, first-time filmmaker Christine Rose recalls from her home in Nova Scotia. "We had a Q&A on opening night, and that went on for over an hour before they pulled me out of the theater," she says. "But after dinner we walked by the theater, and people were still outside talking about the movie. And these were people who didn't even know each other but had met at my movie."
Upon first glimpse, Rose's Liberty Bound might indeed appear to be a quickie, cheapo Fahrenheit 9/11 knock-off. Regular Americans and a few well-regarded talking heads, among them World War II veteran and historian Howard Zinn and activist and author Michael Parenti, damn the Bush administration for going to war with Iraq, for stripping Americans of civil liberties, for using fear to intimidate its own citizenry and for using the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to justify its egregious misdeeds. Like Moore, Rose repeatedly slams Bush for reading to schoolchildren rather than immediately reacting to news of the attacks on the World Trade Center. She uses phrases that repeat those uttered by Moore and his movie--chief among them, "regime change"--and she, like Moore, puts herself in the film, narrating it in a similarly angry, disbelieving tone of voice that sounds like a feminine echo of the Fahrenheit filmmaker.
Rose, who was born in Ohio 35 years ago come November and a resident of Huntsville, Texas, from the time she was 5 till she graduated from Sam Houston State University, would not deny Moore as her chief influence. She decided to make Liberty Bound after reading his book Downsize This, in which he wrote about how and why he made his first movie, Roger & Me, about how the closing of a General Motors plant destroyed his hometown of Flint, Michigan. A longtime community activist in Northern California, where Rose moved after teaching special education outside Fort Worth, she'd had enough with the bickering and inaction of her beloved Green Party and decided she would make a movie that would infuriate, engage and even motivate an audience to change the world, or at least oust a president. "I had just turned 33," Rose says now, "and I thought, well, if I'm gonna do it, I'd better start doing it."
So with camcorder and train ticket and a list of people she'd read about who'd been hassled by the cops or by federal agents for doing nothing more than protesting the president, she set out to make a movie. Almost two years later, it has still been seen only in France, where its distributor Take Off is based, and has distribution deals scattered about a few other European countries. It has no U.S. distributor and is available only on www.libertybound.com for $22, though beginning this month Rose will accompany the movie to screenings across the country sponsored by protest groups and activist film organizations. But unlike even agit-prop doc-maker Robert Greenwald's similarly quickie, cheapo Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism or Uncovered: The Truth About the War in Iraq, Rose does not have the blessing of MoveOn.org. She is out there on her own, one more anti-Bushie trying to preach to the converted and convert Dubya's preachers, delighted with her modest success but still hoping there's one distributor willing to pick up her movie before its November 3 expiration date.
"Ride Moore's wave!" she says, not so facetiously. Rose's executive producer, former actress Lorraine Evanoff, sold the film to Take Off last February but can't find anyone interested here. Before Fahrenheit, distributors said her movie was too raw and rinky-dink and perhaps even too risky; after Fahrenheit, they insisted it was nothing more than a hurried carbon copy. "And I don't understand it, and I've stopped trying to," Rose continues. "It's a film a distributor wouldn't have to pay much for, because it didn't cost much to make, and I was never in it for the money. They could make a fortune riding Moore's wave. People want to see stuff like this. I don't understand it."
They're not so much similar movies so much as companion pieces: If Fahrenheit is the work of a relatively restrained Michael Moore, who uses the audio from the attack on the World Trade Center but not the video, Liberty Bound is the work of someone far less subtle. Not only does she show the planes smashing into the buildings, she does so over and over and over; she also shows still photos of people leaping from the building and plays rarely heard audio communications between the United Airlines flight that crashed in a Pennsylvania field and the air traffic control tower in Cleveland. She also spends a good amount of time comparing Bush to Adolf Hitler, recounting not only George W.'s grandfather Prescott's well-documented dealings with Nazi Germany but also insisting that Hitler began his invasion of Europe as a "pre-emptive war" against Middle Eastern-based terrorists.