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A perfect storm of issue films

'Fahrenheit 9/11' is at the forefront of a slew of political documentaries.

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Here's a free sample of dialogue from "Fahrenheit 9/11," the new Michael Moore documentary: "Governor Bush, it's Michael Moore," says the filmmaker. "Behave yourself, will you?" answers George W. Bush, the Texas governor soon to become the American president. "Go find real work!"

That exchange - though it took place long before Sept. 11 - shows how Mr. Moore could raise hackles even then by simply approaching one of the men of power he's made it his business to question.

Moore has been doing "real work" for years, first attracting attention worldwide in 1989 with "Roger & Me," a crusading documentary about big business and joblessness. It sparked plenty of controversy, but not as instantly as "Fahrenheit 9/11," a polemical film against Bush's domestic and foreign policy since the terrorist attacks.

The film, which won the highest prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival - and was promptly disavowed by Walt Disney Pictures, which forbade its Miramax subsidiary to release the picture - opens next Friday, thanks to Lions Gate Films.

For months "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a subject of heated discussions in op-eds and talkshows, but it isn't the only documentary (a term that applies here in its broadest sense) to tap into today's political anxieties. Several other "impressionistic" documentaries, all with a dissident touch, are in theaters or on their way. They include "Control Room," about the Al Jazeera TV network; "The Corporation," a look at corporate policies and everyday American life; and "The Hunting of the President," which asks whether there was a vast conspiracy - or a series of little ones - to destroy the Clinton administration.


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