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Controversial 'Death of a President' film debuts

Written by: Staff

TORONTO, Sep 11 (Reuters) The controversial British film ''Death of a President,'' a fictional documentary showing the assassination of President George W. Bush, had its first public showing yesterday, receiving mild applause from an audience that seemed more interested in how it was made than why.

The 93-minute film, whose subject matter outraged many Americans, had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival before an audience of about 1,000 people.

After a short burst of applause at the movie's end, about half the audience left the theater quickly while the other half stayed around for a question-and-answer session with producer/director Gabriel Range, 32.

Range complained there had been a rush to judgment about his film, spurred by both its subject matter and by a still photo from the movie that superimposed Bush's head on an actor being shot.

Many of the questions for Range concerned how he managed to make the film so realistic and whether authorities in Chicago, where it was filmed, knew what he was doing.

''We got permits to film. They knew the movie was called 'Death of a President' and it was about the death of a president,'' he said, adding that former FBI agents served as consultants on the project.

He added that he used archival material and digital special effects, as when he shows ''footage'' of newly sworn-in President Dick Cheney giving the eulogy at Bush's funeral.

Despite the sensationalism of its subject matter, the film tries to be a low-key and sober look at the effects of Bush's post 9/11 policies on US society, especially on civil liberties.

Movie-goers left with mixed feelings, with one American tourist calling it overhyped but interesting.

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 man as having committed the crime.

''I hope we portrayed the horror of assassination. 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,'' Range said.

Reuters DKB GC1125

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