Controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 wins Palme d’Or - HISTORY
Year
2004

Controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 wins Palme d’Or

On this day in 2004, Michael Moore’s documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 beats out 18 other films to win the coveted Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It became the first documentary to triumph at Cannes since The Silent World, co-directed by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle, won the Palme d’Or in 1956.

The director Quentin Tarantino, president of the Cannes jury, announced the winner in front of an appreciative crowd at the Grand Theatre Lumiere. The previous week, an audience in that same theater gave the film a standing ovation after its screening. It was a surprise win, not least because the Cannes festival had historically shunned documentaries. Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Silent World were two of only three nonfiction films to be allowed in competition in more than five decades.

Moore’s film was a fierce critique of the foreign policy decisions made by the presidential administration of George W. Bush, principally its response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and its decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came under the harshest fire from Moore, who had caused a stir the previous year for his anti-war comments during his acceptance of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine.

Miramax Films, the production company that financed Fahrenheit 9/11, was originally set to distribute the film, until its parent company, Walt Disney, blocked it from doing so. The ensuing controversy reportedly led to the 2005 split between Disney and Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein. When it was eventually distributed by Lion’s Gate, Fahrenheit 9/11 earned some $119 million at the U.S. box office.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The War of the Roses

In the opening battle of England’s War of the Roses, the Yorkists defeat King Henry VI’s Lancastrian forces at St. Albans, 20 miles northwest of London. Many Lancastrian nobles perished, including Edmund Beaufort, the duke of Somerset, and the king was forced to submit to the ...read more

Yemen united

After 150 years apart, Marxist South Yemen and conservative North Yemen are unified as the Republic of Yemen. Ali Abdullah, president of North Yemen, became the new country’s president, and Ali Salem Al-Baidh, leader of the South Yemeni Socialist Party, vice president. The first ...read more

President Nixon in Moscow

On this day, President Richard Nixon arrives in Moscow for a summit with Soviet leaders.Although it was Nixon’s first visit to the Soviet Union as president, he had visited Moscow once before–as U.S. vice president. As Eisenhower’s vice president, Nixon made frequent official ...read more

Great Emigration departs for Oregon

A massive wagon train, made up of 1,000 settlers and 1,000 head of cattle, sets off down the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. Known as the “Great Emigration,” the expedition came two years after the first modest party of settlers made the long, overland journey to ...read more

Crisis in Austria-Hungary

With hunger and discontent spreading among the civilian and military populations of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a crisis mounts within its government, as Hungarian Prime Minister Istvan Tisza resigns at the request of the Austrian emperor, Karl I, on May 22, 1917.A great power ...read more

Rusk warns North Vietnamese

In a major speech before the American Law Institute in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Dean Rusk explicitly accuses North Vietnam of initiating and directing the aggression in South Vietnam. U.S. withdrawal, said Rusk, “would mean not only grievous losses to the free world ...read more

Negotiators differ on diplomatic exchange

Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, at the 18th plenary session of the Paris peace talks, says he finds common ground for discussion in the proposals of President Richard Nixon and the National Liberation Front. In reply, Nguyen Thanh Le, spokesman for the North Vietnamese, said the ...read more

Sorenstam makes history

On May 22, 2003, golfer Annika Sorenstam becomes the first woman to play in a PGA tour event since Babe Didrikson 58 years earlier, after receiving a sponsor’s exemption to compete in the Bank of America Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas.Annika Sorenstam was born October 9, 1970, in ...read more

Martha Washington dies

President George Washington’s devoted widow and the nation’s first first lady, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, dies at her Mt. Vernon home on this day in 1802. She was 70 years old. Like her husband, Martha Washington was born in the American colonies as a British subject ...read more

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is born

It’s the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of master sleuth Sherlock Holmes.Doyle was born in Scotland and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he met Dr. Joseph Bell, a teacher with extraordinary deductive reasoning power. Bell partly inspired ...read more

Jerry Lee Lewis drops a bombshell in London

The arrival in the United Kingdom of one of the biggest figures in rock and roll was looked forward to with great anticipation in May of 1958. Nowhere in the world were the teenage fans of the raucous music coming out of America more enthusiastic than they were in England, and ...read more

Belgian department store burns

A fire at the L’Innovation department store in Brussels, Belgium, kills 322 people on this day in 1967. Poor preparation and safety features were responsible for the high death toll. At L’Innovation, it was the first day of a heavily promoted American fortnight exhibition, a ...read more

Chandra Levy’s remains found

The remains of former Federal Bureau of Prisons intern Chandra Levy are found on this day in 2002, over a year after the 24-year-old was last seen at a health club. The bone remains, discovered by a man walking through Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, were identified through ...read more

Atlanta child murderer is questioned

Police staking out a bridge over the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta, Georgia, hear a loud splash, and begin chasing Wayne Williams as he attempts to drive away in a station wagon. After questioning him about his involvement in the unprecedented string of child murders in ...read more