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From The SiCKO Premieres in New York City

June 19, 2007

SiCKO Premiere

Ari Melber

Michael Moore’s new health care documentary “SiCKO” premiered in Manhattan last night, with an unusual group of movie stars walking the red carpet at the famous Ziegfeld Theatre. The paparazzi were reduced to snapping pictures of non-celebrities, like rescue workers who were denied health care for ailments they contracted on September 11, and dozens of nurses decked out in maroon “SiCKO” scrubs. The nurses are part of a national alliance advocating health care reform, including several labor unions, doctors’ organizations, consumer groups and, which cosponsored the premiere with The New York Observer.

In his opening remarks, Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the company that produced “SiCKO,” singled out MoveOn for helping promote and defend Moore’s last documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11.” (The group hosted house parties across the country and urged its members to make the film a “huge hit.”) Then Weinstein blasted the timid entertainment industry and overbearing insurance companies that stifle hard-hitting documentaries, telling the audience how Moore persevered in this challenging environment because he is a “true American hero.”

Moore told the crowd that production was delayed five months because it was hard to find an insurance company to back an expose of insurance companies. Smaller insurers were worried that suits could put them out of business, Moore explained, but his fact-checkers are so good he’s never been successfully sued.

The audience enthusiastically cheered Moore, and interrupted the film several times with applause, although it doesn’t actually offer many red meat moments. The tone is more “Roger and Me” than “Fahrenheit 9/11,” pushing fundamental questions instead of political jeremiads. If we really value the heroes of 9/11, why are some suffering without health care for the injuries they sustained while protecting us? How can this nation celebrate the quarterly returns of HMOs that minimize human life to maximize profits? Why does our public discourse demonize the health care systems of our fellow industrialized democracies, which generally prioritize universal coverage? And in one stretch of aggressive agit-prop that even Karl Rove would admire, Moore asks why the detainees at Guantanamo get better health care than the heroes of 9/11, as he sits among those heroes in a boat along the Cuba-U.S. border.

Vito Valenti, a 9/11 rescue worker with pulmonary fibrosis who dragged his oxygen tank down the red carpet last night, said after the screening that it’s obvious the U.S. needs “to reform health care and get everybody covered.” Currently on disability, he volunteers to help 9/11 first responders with the nonprofit FealGood Foundation. Valenti is praying the public will see the film and take action. “It really opened my eyes and I hope to God it opens up America’s eyes,” he said. “If other countries can do it, why can’t we?”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2007 3:20 pm

    So no celebs or A-list stars bothered to show? Hollywood has never really cared for the common American!

  2. June 20, 2007 6:06 pm

    Depending on a political magazine such as The Nation to give an accounting of “Hollywood A-List Talent” is probably a pointless endeavor. I think there are enough magazines such as People, Us and Entertainment Weekly to deliver those kind of details.

    On the other hand, sweeping generalities are dangerous traps of ignorance. Would it be prudent of me to say that people from the Midwest are ignorant bible-thumpers who all believe the same thing the Kansas school board does? It would be both ignorant and wrong.

    The bigger trap however isn’t how the way it makes the person saying sound, but the trap of ignorance it locks a person into. If you think that most “A-list Hollywood talent doesn’t care about the common American” you are ensuring that you will never know any differently and you’ll always be right.

    Shannon, I think you are a passionate and caring person but I will always speak up where I think statements of ignorance are made.

    As someone who does work in Hollywood, I can tell you there are plenty of people who can fit into a category like you describe, but then again you could make a passionate statement about how few people in the midwest seem to care about people in Africa. After all, how many Country/Western albums have been done to raise money for African aid and Darfur?

    I don’t see the positivity or wisdom in re-enforcing stereotypes about anyone, because it really does the biggest damage to the person making the statement.



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