By Reggie Ellis
Michael Moore's movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," has become one of the most powerful weapons to burning Bush's chances at re-election.
Since being released nationwide on June 25, the independent film has stoked the fires of Republican opposition and dominated much of the discussion in crucial months of the campaign season.
So how do the Republicans compete? They make a weapon of their own.
Exeter native and Visalia realtor Brad Maaske is quickly putting together a film that tells "what's happening in a fair manner." The film, "Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein," will be a 90-minute to two-hour documentary detailing the atrocities the Iraqi people have suffered and why it was necessary to take military action to dethrone him.
"I was driving home one day and all I was hearing on the radio is how America is evil," the 46-year-old Maaske said. "Michael Moore's movie is admittedly a biased attempt to unseat a president. I just think someone should be telling the whole story."
Maaske is not taking any donations and has sold much of what he owns to raise the $250,000 it has cost to produce the film.
"I just got married on July 17," he said. "Shortly thereafter I told my wife [Brenda Miller], 'I want to sell everything we own to make this film.' She said OK and we started the project."
The human interest in the film is the story of Daniel Unger. The Ungers recently found a letter dated Sept. 12, 2001 that their son had written for an English project. The students were assigned to write a letter addressed to their children and grandchildren explaining how they felt on Sept. 11. On Aug. 31, Maaske was at the Ungers home on Lenox Avenue in Exeter to shoot footage of Daniel's parents, Lynda and Marc, reading the letter. The following is an excerpt:
"I was glad when President Bush said we would 'hunt down and punish those responsible for this.' That makes me want to go into the military, so I could fight against these kinds of people (or a rescue team so I could help our hurt civilians). I also think that President Bush is a godly man and will do what is necessary to protect our nation. We are lucky to have this kind of leader for our country."
Daniel joined the National Guard a year later, as soon as he was 17 and a half, the minimum age to serve in the Armed Forces. A specialist in the 1st Battalion, 185th Armored Regiment, 81st Separate Armor Brigade, Alpha Company, Daniel, then 19, was killed in Iraq during a mortar attack on May 25 about 25 miles south of Baghdad while saving the lives of two Iraqi civilians.
"This movie will not only be dedicated to Daniel and all the men and women of the Armed Forces, but to the Iraqi people they have fought to set free," said the 1975 Exeter Union High School graduate.
The film is being made in cooperation with Jano Rosebiani, an Iraqi Kurd whose people were the prime targets of Hussein's genocidal mass graves. Rosebiani's 2002 film, "Jiyan," tells the story of a 1988 Iraqi bombing raid that dropped mustard gas, nerve gas and cyanide on the small Kurdish town of Halabja killing 5,000 people within minutes. The title of the film is a Kurdish word meaning life, and the name of a female character who survived the attack and still lives in the area.
Rosebiani's second film was the documentary "Mass Graves." Released in May, the film documents 272 sites discovered so far, containing 300,000 bodies and about the 1.2 million men, women and children who have been executed by Saddam's regime since 1975.
In an interview with The Pioneer in New Delhi, India, Rosebiani said the driving force behind his work is to bring about the truth of Hussein's Ba'ath regime. "If Saddam Hussein had not been deposed, the majority of Iraqis would have ended up in mass graves," Rosebiani said.
Maaske said Rosebiani's footage will make up a large portion of the film in order to tell the story accurately.
"It was difficult to get the film out of Iraq," Maaske said. "We bought most of the film he had."
Maaske received more than 135 hours of raw footage to be edited into the movie. Because of time constraints to get the movie out before the Nov. 2 election, Maaske said it will have a "guerrilla" feel with cameras being hand held and including some footage of Hussein's home movies.
An ironic twist to the film is an interview with Michael Moore. Maaske said in the interview Moore admits using propaganda techniques to make his connections in his own film.
A self described Bush basher, Moore's film offers his view on the current presidency and where it has led the country in the wake of 9/11. An independent filmmaker, Moore also implies that the president rushed into the war with Iraq and avoided any conflict with the Saudis, who Moore claims funded Al Qaeda operations and contributed to Bush's campaign.
Maaske is planning on releasing his film in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago on Sept. 24 or Oct. 1, just one month before the election, and still needs to find another $1 million for the release.
"Our movie talks about how the Bush doctrine has been a moral compass to foreign policy," Maaske said. "Our society is well educated on the atrocities of Hitler. We all see the Holocaust photos in history books, but for some reason Saddam Hussein is not seen in the same light. This film will be an education into the tyranny of Hussein."