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Michael Moore’s Election-Year Freebie

By Brian Stelter at The New York Times (International)

Michael Moore, the political provocateur behind the films “Fahrenheit 9/11″ and “Sicko,” is releasing a new film Tuesday. But you will not be able to find “Slacker Uprising” at any theater.

Instead he is placing the film on the Internet for free viewing, at SlackerUprising.com. Moore said the unorthodox rollout is a gift to his fans and a rallying cry for the coming election.

“At times there’s nothing wrong with preaching to the choir,” he said in a telephone interview from his office in Traverse City, Michigan Liberals have been “pretty beaten down over the last 28 years.”

“The choir, especially on our side of the political fence, is often fairly dejected,” he observed, “and could use a good song every now and then.”

The song in this analogy is a 100-minute look at Moore’s tour of college campuses during the fall of 2004. Cameras followed him to 62 cities as he urged young people to vote for John Kerry. The resulting footage sat on the shelf for a few years before Moore spliced together a version of the film, then titled “Captain Mike Across America,” and showed it at the Toronto International Film Festival a year ago.

 

“I prohibited him from contacting any studios to ask them whether they were interested,” Moore said. “I just said straight up, ‘I want to give this away for free.’ He thought I should have my head examined.”

The Weinstein Company owned the distribution rights to the project, so Moore bought back the North American rights for an undisclosed amount. “The irony is that I believe people should see movies in theaters,” Moore said, praising what he called the communal experience. “You get so much more out of it, emotionally, cathartically.”

Perhaps for that reason Moore said he hoped fans would set up screenings and use the film to raise money for candidates. Visitors to the Web site will be able to stream and download it free, thanks to Moore’s partnership with Blip.tv, a company distributing online videos; additionally a $10 DVD will be distributed, and free copies can be requested for libraries.

Robert Greenwald — another member of the small fraternity of advocate filmmakers, whose production company specializes in tying video projects to off-line organizing — said a supporter in Alaska was already planning a screening. The film is “quite an adrenaline boost, even though it’s got a sad ending,” he said.

The ending, of course, is the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004. The film notes that voters under the age of 30 were the only demographic that Kerry won outright. “Unfortunately,” reads a graphic at the end of the film, “their parents voted for Bush.”

Moore suggested that the 2004 election results were a prelude to the Obama movement, which was “ignited by young people.”

“The road to getting where we want to be has to be filled with a certain amount of failure,” he said, drawing a parallel to the United Auto Workers’ labor movement 70 years ago.

Moore remains coy about the subject of his next movie, although he said filming was well under way. He has denied rumors that it will be a sequel to “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but he has not quashed reports that his next film will explore what he views as American imperialism. The recent turmoil of the financial markets may be giving him even more material.

“Some weeks, like this past week, I wonder if we’re going to have to credit others with the screenplay,” he said.