By now you may have awakened to the news that last night, in Cannes, France, my new film, "Bowling for Columbine," was awarded the Special Prize of the 55th Cannes Film Festival. It had already made history by being the first documentary chosen to be part of the official festival competition in almost 50 years. And, last night, it was the only prize awarded that received a unanimous decision from the festival jury. The film's crew and I have never experieced anything like this.
Now, you're probably wondering what happened to that guy who wrote "Stupid White Men?" I know it seems like I disappeared for the better part of April and May. Contrary to the wild rumors I helped to initiate, I was not abducted by the Ashcroft Aliens for violating the new Patriot Act.
In truth, the book tour spun out of control when I couldn't say no to all the places that asked me to come and speak. Before I knew it, I had done 64 appearances in a total of 47 cities. Then, on the morning of my birthday, I was awakened with a call from France, asking me if I would allow my film to be shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. What do you say to a call like that? "Hey, it's my birthday, dammit, I'm trying to sleep!"
So I rushed back to New York and went into overdrive to put the final touches on the film. We finished it 3 hours before we left to go to France.
Well, that was two weeks ago. I have been here in Cannes since then -- and the response has been nothing short of overwhelming. The director of the festival announced that the standing ovation our film received as the credits rolled set a new record in the history of the Cannes Film Festival -- 13 minutes long. Within hours, dozens of countries from around the world bought the distribution rights to the film from the Canadian conglomerate which "owns" our movie, breaking the previous record for a documentary set by "Roger & Me" (yes, the producers get all the money and we get... well, we get nada plus a plane ticket home!)
The day began yesterday with "Bowling for Columbine" winning "Best Film" from a vote of hundreds of French teachers and students from arond the country who each year come to Cannes and award one movie their "Cannes Prix Educational National." It's the only "people's prize" at Cannes where everyday citizens get to screen the films and vote. It was a wonderful moment and a great honor to receive this award. The Education Ministry in France has made "Roger & Me" part of the French national curriculum and it is shown each year in every school in France. The same will now happen with "Bowling for Columbine."
So, when do you get to see it? United Artists bought the film for the U.S. and is planning on releasing it this fall. But don't hold your breath. I hate to sound a note of pessimism or warning, but my experience this year in fighting to get my book released (from a publisher that was hell-bent on NOT releasing it) has made me justifiably wary of anyone who says they will distribute my work. I wish the good people at UA all the best.
There is no getting around the fact that "Bowling for Columbine" is a provocative, controversial film that is going to make a lot of people angry. That is not my intention. I do not relish the hassle I am in for. But the work I do must be an honest expression of what I see and believe -- and I am not inclined to soften what I do to appease those whom I must beg for money in order to do my work.
"Bowling for Columbine" is my personal view of America at the turn of this new century. It is not specifically about Columbine and, no, it is not about bowling. My favorite quote I read during the festival was, "This film will single-handedly guarantee that George W. Bush will never see a second term." Well, one can only dream. After all, it is just a movie. If it go as planned, the film will be released in October.
I have to say that things have turned around a bit for me in the past few months. I have no one else to thank for this except for all of you. Against incredible odds that included a publisher who demanded I choose between censoring my work or destroying the 50,000 copies they had printed, you made "Stupid White Men" the most-read non-fiction book in the country -- and it remains at or near the top of every best-seller list in the U.S. and Canada for the 15th week in a row.
To now have this record-setting response to "Bowling for Columbine" happen here at Cannes is beyond belief. It's more than I deserve and I feel truly blessed and privileged. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish there was some way to repay all of you, like an internet version of let's all go out for a pizza. Maybe someday!
Lifetime Member, N.R.A.
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