Moore defends Cuba trip for 'Sicko'


CANNES -- Finally unveiling his new documentary "Sicko" on Saturday, Michael Moore met with the international press, where he challenged the premise behind the U.S. Treasury Department's investigation into whether he violated the trade embargo with Cuba.

In the docu, funded by the Weinstein Co., Moore first looks at how Americans are denied health services by insurers intent on maximizing profits, and then spends most of the film looking at how universal health care works in Canada, Great Britain, France and Cuba.

The Cuba visit actually begins as a trip to the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, where, Moore contends, the detainees receive better medical attention than ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers have received in the U.S.

"Being in Cuba was just an accident because Guantanamo Bay is located there," Moore contended. "If the detainees had been on a naval base in the Philippines, Australia or Italy or Spain, we would have gone there. The fact that we were in Cuba is because the Bush administration decided to put the detainees in Guantanamo Bay."

While the press reception to the film was largely laudatory, a couple of journalists from Canada challenged the positive portrait Moore paints of the Canadian system.

"The Canadian system is underfunded," the director admitted. "That's the problem. That's been the problem for 20 years. There is not a problem, though, with the actual concept of universal health care in Canada.

"I'm looking at Canada through American eyes," Moore said. "If I were a Canadian, I'd probably complain louder than you just did, but I'm not, I'm American saying something's wrong with our system, something's right in Canada. If we aspired more to the ways you do it, I think we'd be better off."

In the film, Moore -- who has taken up power walking and healthy eating and lost about 25 pounds in recent months -- doesn't play the rumpled provour confronting the rich and powerful as much as did his previous films.

"After (the Palme d'Or-winning) 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' I started thinking about the whole conceit of the audience living vicariously through someone on screen, in this case me, and thinking about how we're never going to have real change in the U.S. if the public doesn't see that it will only happen when they rise up out of the theater seats and do something about it.

"This film is a call for action, not for Michael Moore to go do it, but for the American people to do it."