Harvey Weinstein is at it again. In 2004, as the head of Miramax Films and a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Mr. Weinstein masterminded the release of Michael Moore’s incendiary anti-George W. Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, sending it to the top of box office and fuelling an angry national debate about the country’s military misadventures.
This time around, Mr. Weinstein – backing Obama as he did in 2008 – is shepherding a very different kind of movie about the military onto the national stage, and hoping it will result in a better outcome for his chosen candidate. In May, he paid an estimated $2.5-million for the rights to ‘SEAL Team Six,’ a TV drama that takes viewers into the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The film will air Nov. 4, two days before the election, on the National Geographic Channel in the U.S.
The timing has prompted Republicans and other critics of President Barack Obama to complain the film is a 90-minute primetime commercial for Obama. That notion was reinforced after the New York Times reported Thursday that the most recent edit of the film increases the on-air screen time of the President, who appears in archival footage, and that Mr. Weinstein was personally involved in the latest edit. (The latter would not be unusual: Mr. Weinstein is a notorious meddler on most of the films he releases.)
But the Times also suggested the film could become a hot potato similar to the YouTube short ‘The Innocence of Muslims,’ which was widely reported to be a factor in the attacks last month on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans. “Nothing in ‘SEAL Team Six’ recalls the anti-Muslim tones of that film,” caution Times reporters Michael Cieply and Brian Stelter. “But the new film’s portrayals of the jeopardy to Muslim children during the assault on Bin Laden’s compound, and its graphic references to – but not portrayals of – torture in the war on terror may step toward the risk zone.”
The film’s director John Stockwell told Politico that was nonsense. He said the Times’s story, “took us all by surprise – as we went to great lengths to highlight the care and the control that the SEALs showed during the chaos of the raid – not to harm any women and children.”
Conservative media outlets, though, ran with the story, evidently playing directly into the PR hands of Mr. Weinstein, who boasts a long track record of leveraging controversy to sell a film. But even if ‘SEAL Team Six’ buffs up Mr. Obama’s credentials as a commander-in-chief less than 48 hours before Americans go to the polls, it will not be an uninterrupted commercial. OPSEC, an anti-Obama organization which calls itself a group of former Intelligence officers and Special Operations officers who are concerned about national security leaks, will be buying spots during the movie’s ad time in key states, including Florida, Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina, Nevada, and Virginia.