Published today in The Guardian, this article probably tell it like it is in making a Michael Moore mockumentary.
Fahrenheit £40m: armless soldier sues Moore for using his image in anti-war film
· Veteran says film wrongly showed him as war critic
· Lawyer claims footage was used without permission
Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Friday June 2, 2006
It's a powerful moment in Michael Moore's anti-war film Fahrenheit 9/11. A young American soldier who lost his arms in a helicopter explosion is describing his injuries. The soldier, Sergeant Peter Damon, says he feels like he is being "crushed in a vice". Painkillers, he continues, "take a lot of the edge off of it".
The scene follows a clip showing the Democratic congressman Jim McDermott criticising the Bush administration's conduct of the war in Iraq. "You know, they say they're not leaving any veterans behind, but they're leaving all kinds of veterans behind," the politician says.
It bolsters the anti-war sentiments of the film, suggesting that Sgt Damon and others were abandoned by America's political leaders after sustaining horrific injuries in pursuit of a conflict about which many developed doubts.
But now Sgt Damon is suing the man who he says used footage of him without his permission and distorted his words. He never met Moore, or anyone from his production company, says the former soldier, who is claiming $75m (£40m) in damages for "loss of reputation, emotional distress, embarrassment, and personal humiliation".
Sgt Damon's wife is seeking an additional $10m in damages because of the mental distress caused to her husband.
The interview which appears in Moore's film was conducted by a prime-time news programme, NBC's Dateline, for a report about a new painkiller. The NBC report ends with the words: "These men, with catastrophic wounds are ... completely behind the war effort."
In his lawsuit, Sgt Damon alleges Moore misrepresented his words to make it appear he was critical of the war. He "agrees with and supports the president and the United States' war effort, and he was not left behind", he states.
"They took the clip because it was a gut-wrenching scene," Sgt Damon told the New York Post. "They sandwiched it in. [Moore] was using me as ammunition ... I was complaining about the pain I would've been having.
"I just want everybody to know what kind of a guy Michael Moore is, and what kind of film this is," he said.
Moore's film, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2004, became the biggest-grossing documentary in history, taking $222.5m at the box office worldwide.
Sgt Damon's lawyer, Dennis Lynch, said he had been struck by the soldier's story when he met him at a St Patrick's Day parade. "You see a man that has lost both his arms, is obviously disabled, a man that supports his country and the policy in Iraq, and you hear about his name and image being used in a manner that is contrary to everything he believes in. There's a lot of harm been done. Michael Moore took my client's good name and reputation and defamed him using WMD - weapons of mass defamation."
Mr Lynch said he had tried for more than a year to settle the complaint, but Moore and his lawyers rejected any negotiation. "We didn't just rush to court with this," he said.
Sgt Damon, 33, knew nothing about his appearance in Fahrenheit 9/11 until a friend of his in hospital greeted him one day with the words: "Hey, movie star".
The soldier did make a subsequent appearance on camera, but it was in the anti-Michael Moore film Fahrenhype 9/11. Addressing Moore through the camera, he says: "You know you've lied in making this movie. You know you lied in my case, you know you lied in a whole lot of other cases."
"I was ecstatic when I saw that he was suing Michael Moore," said the Farenhype 9/11 director, Alan Peterson.
Neither NBC nor Moore obtained a release form from Sgt Damon giving permission for them to use his image. NBC is named in Sgt Damon's lawsuit, as are the producers of Fahrenheit 9/11, Miramax and LionsGate films and companies involved in the distribution of the film. None of the companies would comment on the lawsuit. Moore did not return messages requesting comment.
According to Peterson, Sgt Damon's experience is typical of the subjects in Moore's films. "We went through Michael Moore's film and looked at the people he interviewed and asked them if they felt they had been fairly treated," he said. "More often than not they didn't know they had been interviewed for the film."
Peterson said others might well come forward with claims against Moore. "It wouldn't surprise me if this rippled through Michael Moore's other films," he said, "because his modus operandi hasn't changed. Michael Moore and Miramax made a ton of money off these people. It will be interesting to see how the courts view that.
"I hope it sends a message to film-makers that we have to be careful. The idea that there is objectivity in film-making is ridiculous.
"I hope this helps people understand that when you watch something you have to be aware of where it's coming from."
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