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Death threats made to Bush assassination film makers

BAZ BAMIGBOYE / Daily Mail | September 11 2006

The British film-makers behind a controversial £2 million Channel 4 movie that shows the fictional assassination of President Bush are being guarded by private security men at the Toronto International Film Festival after threats were made on their lives.

The exact nature and level of threat against Gabriel Range, the director of Death of A President and his producer - writing partner Simon Finch was not being disclosed yesterday but expert security officers were in attendance at the world premiere screening of the film, also known as DOAP, on Sunday night at the Paramount cinema in Toronto.

All ticket holders had their bags searched and security officers stood by the film-makers during the screening, while guards constantly patrolled the aisles for security purposes and to ensure that the film was not illegally copied.

There were mixed views about the impact of the film with much concern expressed about the movie being about the fictional slaying of a real-life sitting president and that computer generated imagery grafted the head of the real George Bush onto that of an actor for the sensational moment when Bush is slain by two bullets from an assassins rifle.

Roger Friedman of America's Fox News.com was outraged and went on Matt Drudge's US network radio programme on Sunday night to denounce the film as sensationalist and irresponsible, a view echoed by some, but not all of those who saw the first screening. 'It's utterly tasteless', Friedman insisted.

He felt it was like putting a target on President Bush's head, a charge denied by director Range.

'There have been plenty of fictional films about assassination and I don't think anyone would get the idea of assassinating Bush from this film', said Range who shot the film on location in Chicago using actors cast in America.

Liza Marshall the Channel 4 commissioning editor who greenlit the film noted that the film set out to examine the effects of the war on terror and how it has affected America.

'Gabriel did a huge amount of research into all aspects of the terror debate and has emerged with a seriously considered film about the state of America', she argued.

Indeed, Death of A President is a sober look at how America's foreign policies have stifled civil liberties and debate about the cause and effects of the war in Iraq and security issues in the US.

It unfolds as a retrospective documentary that interviews fictional former Secret Service and FBI investigators and members of the Bush administration after Bush has been killed.

They discuss the run up to a speech President Bush was to give in Chicago 2007 and how 12,000 demonstrators took to the streets waving placards which read 'War Is Terrorism' and 'Stop Bush'.

The film-makers use archival footage of Bush actually arriving in Chicago and mix it in with actors playing his various aides. After we see Bush make an economic speech we see him in a holding room taking a breather before exiting the hotel's conference centre.

A fictional Secret Service officer recalls how he had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was wrong.' He (Bush) looked at me and said ,'Larry is there a problem?'

The Secret Service man, Larry, responded that there wasn't a problem. Even so we see him scanning the crowds looking into the eyes of those waiting.

Seconds later shots are fired and Bush slumps to the ground. We see news bulletins about him being taken to hospital and later we learn of his passing.

Perhaps, the most chilling moment, for some, comes when Vice president Cheney is named President. There's a scene of him delivering an eulogy, another clever use of computer generated imagery and voice doctoring.

Various suspects are rounded up and the film focuces for some time on how law enforcement officials look at those with Islamic backgrounds. Some American journalists have given away the whole plot but to do so here would not be fair to British viewers hoping to watch the film next month.

The film's in the tradition of provocatve amd probing docu-drama from British film-makers. A Channel 4 spokesman acknowledged that if the film-makers had chosen to use a completely fictional president it would not have had anywhere near the same impact. It certainly wouldn't have been as sensational.

Although the film will be shown on More4 in the UK on October 9, and later on Channel 4, the film-makers were hoping American, Canadian and European film distributors would buy it to show in cinemas.


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