A Cuban mother and her children watch Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11"
Rafael Perez  /  REUTERS
A Cuban mother and her children watch Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11" on prime time Cuban state-run television at their home in Havana on Thursday.
By Producer
NBC News
updated 8/2/2004 12:24:13 PM ET 2004-08-02T16:24:13

No surprise here: Cuban audiences love Michael Moore's anti-Bush “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

After opening the island’s summer film program and playing to sold-out crowds in 120 movie theaters across the island, Cuba’s communist government decided to air it on state-run television last Thursday.

Unlike the controversy it’s causing at home, Cubans take the documentary at face value.

Towing the party line
Again, no surprise. For four years now, Fidel Castro has berated George Bush for waging war to destabilize his government.

Also, the Cuban press widely promoted “Fahrenheit” before anyone ever got a look.

The day after the movie opened in U.S. theaters, Cubans had their hands on bootleg copies. For weeks before the Havana premier, underground video stores were renting “Fahrenheit” for five pesos a night.  

“Cubans can identify with the agony in Iraq. We are also a target of George Bush,” said Lisandro Otero, author and playwright whose works have been translated into 19 languages. “It’s a brilliant expose of how Bush lied to the American people.”

Pedro Hernandez, a supervisor at the Havana airport, thinks along official party lines. “The movie couldn’t be any clearer: Bush is the bad guy, and the U.S. people should remove him from office.”

Younger audiences appreciate freedom to make film
Younger audiences seem to be thinking a bit more independently.

Ariel Morales, 17, said “Fahrenheit” condemns all wars, not just Iraq. He bristled at a Cuban military ad that aired on Cuba TV immediately following the U.S. documentary.

“Hasn’t the world progressed at all? We should be able to settle conflicts peacefully, not by killing people,” said Morales.

Others were surprised that the U.S. system tolerated such strident criticism of a sitting president.

Alex Martin, 30, praised both Moore for having had the “courage” to make the movie, and “U.S. democracy for protecting freedom of speech.”

Despite the new U.S. travel regulations limiting visits to the island, there was a sprinkling of Americans who saw the documentary in Cuban theaters.

Emerging from the Yara Theater in downtown Havana, Abigail Nelson, an American college student learning Spanish this summer in Havana, noted, “Michael Moore and Fidel Castro see the world eye-to-eye.”

Mary Murray is an NBC News producer based in Havana.

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