After his stunning indictment of Bush's Iraq War with his Farenheit 9/11, Hollywood director Michael Moore is making his country's ruling elite squirm with his Sicko.
The movie, which has taken Cannes by storm, portrays a country where the government is more interested in personal profit and protecting big business than caring for its citizens, many of whom cannot afford health insurance.
AdvertisementWhen asked about this latest ouvre, irrepressible Michael Moore shot back, "If people ask, we tell them 'Sicko' is a comedy about 45 million people with no health care in the richest country on Earth." He says the U.S. health care system is driven by greed and asks of Americans in general, "Where is our soul?"
He demands to know why 50 million Americans, 9 million of them children, live without cover, while those that are insured are often driven to poverty by spiraling costs or wrongly refused treatment at all. He goes on to stress that it is call to action.
He could even go to jail for taking a group of volunteers suffering ill health after helping in the September 11, 2001 rescue efforts on an unauthorized trip to Cuba, where they received exemplary treatment at virtually no cost.
"SiCKO" uses humor and tragic personal stories to get the point across, and had a packed audience variously laughing and in tears. There was loud applause at the end of the two-hour documentary, which is out of the main Cannes competition.
Moore was asked by journalists why he painted such a rosy picture of other countries' health systems, including Britain, France, Canada and Cuba, and the implied criticism is likely to be raised again. But he defended his methods.
"I recognize that there are flaws in your system but that's not for me to correct, that's for you to correct," he told a Canadian reporter.
One section of the film explains how a U.S. man severed the tip of two fingers in an accident and was told he would have to pay $12,000 to re-attach the end of his ring finger, and $60,000 to re-attach that of his index finger.
"Being a hopeless romantic, Rick chose his ring finger," Moore quipped in a typically sardonic voiceover.
It also follows a woman whose young daughter falls seriously ill but who said she was refused admission to a general hospital and instructed to go to a private one instead. By the time she got to the second hospital, it was too late to save the girl.
One of the most controversial passages of the film, due to be released in the United States on June 29, compares health care in the United States to that which Islamic militant suspects receive at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
"I think when Americans see this they are not going to focus on Cuba or Fidel Castro," Moore said, referring to the controversy surrounding his trip to Cuba, which has prompted a U.S. government investigation.
"They are going to say to themselves, 'You're telling me that the al Qaeda detainees are receiving better health care, the people that helped participate in the attacks of 9/11 are receiving better health care from us than those who went down to rescue those who suffered and died on 9/11?"
After the first screening Saturday last, a breathless Moore said that he has lost 25 pounds since he started making the movie. "I started thinking it was somewhat hypocritical to be making a film about health care, and wasn't taking care of my own health," the globular filmmaker told the global press corps.
"I'm actually a very skinny person from the midwest, with all due repect to fellow midwesterners. So I started to walk around the block every day, and eating these things that you refer to as fruits and vegetables. I started thinking that one way to fight the system is to take better care of yourself."