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Bush assassination film set for U.S. release

Arthur Spiegelman / Reuters | September 12 2006

After you kill off President George W. Bush in a fictional film, what do you do? How about make a deal.

Gabriel Range, the British producer/director/creator of "Death of a President," the fictional documentary that sight unseen became one of the most talked-about movies of the Toronto Film Festival, has sold U.S. distribution rights to Newmarket Films, which handled Mel Gibson's equally provocative movie "The Passion of the Christ."

Newmarket, which reportedly paid $1 million for the film, is expected to give "President" a wide release within the next few months. It will air on Britain's Channel 4 next month.

Range's film opened on Sunday night to a sell-out festival crowd, which sat respectfully through it and applauded briefly at the end. Those who remained after the screening peppered the filmmaker with questions on how he achieved his special effects.

The film is shot as if it were a conventional television documentary, even though the events are fictional.

Range, who also co-wrote the film, uses footage taken of Bush during three visits to Chicago to create the scenes that lead up top the president being shot.

He also uses special digital effects to superimpose the head of the president on that of an actor pretending to be shot, and he creates a flowery eulogy delivered by President Dick Cheney at the funeral of his predecessor.

The movie opens with demonstrations against Bush as he visits Chicago in 2007. As he leaves a hotel after delivering a speech, he is shot by a sniper in a nearby building.

A police hunt leads to the arrest of a Palestinian man on flimsy evidence. Later the man is convicted of the assassination and kept in prison even as evidence points to another person as having committed the crime.

"The reaction of the general public was very good," Range said in an interview with Reuters about the opening night response.

"People didn't know what to expect. Our film has a very striking premise but it is not sensational or gratuitous. I hope people will see it as a balanced film and compelling drama. It is an oblique look at the ways the United States has changed since 9/11. We use the lens of the future to explain the past."

The 93-minute film's subject matter has led to protests in the United States, especially from conservatives. Range said he has received five or six death threats.


But he said that was because there was a rush to judgment about his film, without people knowing what was in it.

"We portrayed the horror of assassination. ... I don't think anyone would get the idea of assassinating Bush from this film," Range said.

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