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On May 22, 2004, Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 beat out 18 other films to win the coveted Palme d’Or, the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival.
It became the first documentary to succeed at Cannes since “The Silent World,” co-directed by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle, won the Palme d’Or in 1956.
Director Quentin Tarantino, president of the Cannes jury, announced the winner in front of an appreciative crowd at the Grand Theater Lumiere. The last week, the audience in that same room gave the film a standing ovation after its screening.
It was a surprise victory, especially since the Cannes festival had historically avoided documentaries. “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “The Silent World” were two of only three nonfiction films allowed to compete in more than five decades.
Moore’s film was a scathing critique of the foreign policy decisions made by the presidential administration of George W. Bushprimarily his response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and his decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were the targets of Moore’s harshest criticism.
Miramax Films, the production company that financed Fahrenheit 9/11, was originally set to distribute the film, until its parent company, Walt Disney, prevented it from doing so. According to reports, the resulting controversy led to the 2005 split between Disney and Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
When it was finally distributed by Lion’s Gate, Fahrenheit 9/11 it grossed about $119 million at the US box office.