US government probes filmmaker Michael Moore’s travel to Cuba

14 May, 2007: The United States Treasury Department is investigating Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, over a trip he made to Cuba for his new film titled Sicko, a health-care documentary.

Moore took ailing rescue workers – engaged in cleaning up the World Trade Center site after the September 11, 2001, attacks – to Cuba to film a section in Sicko, the Associated Press reports.

The US Treasury Department’s investigation may add another controversial element to the new movie by Michael Moore, who is a vehement critic of US President George W Bush.

Sicko promises to castigate the health-care sector the way Moore has lambasted automakers, gun enthusiasts and the Bush Administration.

Earlier in May 2007, the Treasury Department sent a letter to Moore saying it was investigating whether he had violated restrictions on travel to Cuba when he accompanied sick workers seeking free medical care as part of his documentary on the United States’ health care industry.

On Michael Moore’s website, Meghan O’Hara, the movie’s producer, described the Treasury Department’s actions a “politically motivated investigation.”

The letter from the Treasury Department asked for detailed information about Moore’s trip, including evidence that he was employed as a journalist. Journalists can secure permission to go to Cuba.

The Administration also sought the name and address of the travel agent who made the reservations, and receipts, and the names and addresses of all those who went on the trip.

Chris Lehane, who was press secretary to Vice-President Al Gore and is now working with the Weinstein Company, the film’s distributor, said the Treasury Department had been aware of the trip for a long time.

Harvey Weinstein, a co-founder of the Weinstein Company, said the timing of the Treasury Department’s letter suggested an attack by the Bush Administration meant to discredit the film. He added that “they are only causing more publicity.”

Sicko is set to open at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2007, and across the United States on June 29, 2007.

Michael Moore and his supporters are most likely to use the Administration’s inquiry to the film’s advantage. He has done this sort of thing earlier.

In May 2004, Moore and his agent, Ari Emanuel, went public with complaints that the Walt Disney Company was refusing to distribute the film Fahrenheit 9/11, kicking up dust in Hollywood and Washington. Fahrenheit 9/11 fetched $220 million at the box office worldwide.




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