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photo: Felix Gillette Festival speaker Michael Medved DAMS Sivtroba10-12.20″ .:,1111111 BOOKS & THE CULTURE Do the Right Thing BY FELIX GILLETTE 0 n a Friday night in early September, a jumbo portrait of Ronald Reagan flashed onto the screen at a suburban movie theater on the outskirts of Dallas. As the audience filed in to take their seats, President Reagan stared down at them, accompanied by a quote from his 1989 farewell address. “[F] or those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer in style,” warned the former star of Bedtime for Bonzo. President Reagan’s appearance in lieu of the annoying Fandango guy marked the opening night of the American Film Renaissance, the country’s first conservative film festival. Sitting in the audience and staring at the giant image of the former president was a group of filmmakers, DVD-distributors, and Young Republican types who were hoping to someday wrestle control of the indie film business from Robert Redford and the Sundance kids. President Reagan may be the founding father of the G.O.P. film movement, but today’s conservative filmmakers look to someone else for daily inspiration. His name is Michael Moore. Of approximately 20 selections at the festival, two were made explicitly in response to MooreMichael & Me and Michael Moore Hates America. Several other films had implicit anti-Moorian allusions and scenes. Michael Medved, author of Hollywood vs. America, set the tone for the festival by crediting Michael Moore for galvanizing conservative film goers. Indeed, Jim Hubbard, a Dallas-based lawyer who, along with his wife Ellen, organized the weekend, says that the festival wouldn’t exist if not for Moore. Two years earlier on a fateful night in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Hubbards went to their favorite art house theater and found two unsatisfactory choices: Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and Frida, a feature film about the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Appalled by the glaring liberal bias of the Hollywood-industrial complex, the Hubbards decided to organize a grass-roots conservative film movement. First up on the program was DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, a feature film produced by Showtime and staring Timothy Bottoms as President George W. Bush. The movie, which borrows heavily from Bob Woodward’s favorable portrait of the President in Bush at War, dramatizes the inner workings of the Bush Administration during the nine days immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Bottoms plays a straight-shooting, tough-talking president who gives orders to Donald Rumsfeld, tells Dick Cheney the time of day, and lectures Tony Blair on diplomacy. Throughout the film, he does more decisive hand-chopping than Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. Sample scene: Mr. President, what will you do to protect the homeland? At the heart of DC 9/11 is a not-sosubtle rebuttal of Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. In Moore’s latest film, the camera lingers on the face of President Bush after he is informed of the terrorist attacks. For seven long minutes, the President remains in a state of semiparalysis as he sits in an elementary classroom in Florida. DC 9/11 revisits this scene. As flashbulbs blink like strobe lights, Bottoms as Bush sits in a state of shock. In the next sequence, however, director Lionel Chetwynd shows the audience what Moore supposedly omits. The President snaps into action, making telephone calls, assessing intelligence, and barking out orders like Norman Schwarzkopf on a caffeine bender. After the screening, the crowd applauded, and Bottoms signed autographs. Aside from DC 9/11, most of the Renaissance films were documentaries. One focused on the liberal media’s treatment of Cuban Americans during the Elian Gonzalez controversy. Another revealed how gun control had contribthe lynching of blacks in the American Americans at Wounded Knee. Silent Victory, a long-winded military love fest, celebrated the dedication of American troops in Vietnam. At one point, the directors argued that the Tet Offensive was actually a victory for the United States and attributed its historical misrepresentation to the lousy reporting of a slipshod journalista certain Walter Cronkite. The movie implored Americans to honor all who served in the military. Afterwards, during a Q-and-A ses 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9/24/04