Poor quality or not, millions of Cubans 
see Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11'

Wed Aug 4, 6:35 PM ET

HAVANA (AFP) - In the past two weeks, millions of Cubans have seen pirated prints of US director Michael Moore's hit documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," showing on state-run television and in some 120 cinemas.

In the past two weeks, millions of Cubans have seen pirated 
prints of US director Michael Moore's hit documentary 
'Fahrenheit 9/11,' showing on state-run television and 
in some 120 cinemas.(AFP/Getty Images/File)

TV showing of the film here had threatened its chances at a coveted Oscar next year. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (news - web sites) rules say a film that aired on television or on the Internet within nine months of its theatrical release is not eligible for consideration.

But academy officials said Wednesday the Cuban TV screening would probably not hurt the film's Oscar chances because the print aired was an illegal copy and thus outside the control of the film's producers and distributors.

Academy spokesman John Pavlik said the film, which has caused political tidal waves by bashing US President George W. Bush ahead of the November 2 election, would not be disqualified if it was aired without its makers' and distributors' consent, using a stolen or pirated copy.

"If we disqualified all movies that have been pirated, we would disqualify all movies," he told AFP.

Producer Miramax studios and Canadian-based distributors Lions Gate Films insisted they never agreed to allow the documentary to be aired in Cuba.

"The film that was illegally shown on Cuban state-run TV was from an unauthorized, pirated copy," they said in a joint statement Wednesday.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" has nonetheless been a hot ticket in Cuba. In one movie house alone - the Charles Chaplin Cinema in Havana - 12,572 spectators saw it in the first 10 days, according to official figures.

But those numbers paled in comparison with the number of viewers who saw the documentary on Cuba's state television, which aired it simultaneously on three of its four channels on July 27 and again on July 31.

During that last showing, the TV commentator on the film was none other than Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban Parliament, who also oversees the Cuban government's relations with the United States.

Program host Reynaldo Taladrid asked viewers' understanding for the "technical deficiencies" in the aired copy of the film, and the credits in Spanish noted the copy had not been made in Cuba.

Cinema viewers noted similarly poor quality, lending credence to the reports of piracy.

Asked about the televised print of "Fahrenheit 9/11, a spokesman for the state-run Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematography Industries replied, "No comment."

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