Floods, fire and train delays fail to stop maverick Moore from Sheffield film festival appearance

Long queues waiting in the rain to get into Sheffield City Hall after a fire alert delayed the start of Michael Moore's new film being screened at the opening of Sheffield Doc/Fest
Long queues waiting in the rain to get into Sheffield City Hall after a fire alert delayed the start of Michael Moore's new film being screened at the opening of Sheffield Doc/Fest

"We've had fire and floods today, we're expecting locusts tomorrow", joked the new director of Sheffield Doc/Fest at the opening film event at Sheffield City Hall.

Elizabeth McIntyre certainly had a trying start to her debut event on Friday night. The City Hall had to be evacuated by a fire alert, delaying the showing of Michael Moore's new film, Where to Invade Next.

An audience of 2,000 had to stand in the rain for more than hour until the all-clear was given. Earlier, a heavy deluge meant that the Doc/Fest Exchange marquee venue on Tudor Square had to be hastily evacuated in the middle of a Q&A on the film Strike a Pose, about Madonna's backing dancers for her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour.

US activist film director Michael Moore hadn't fared much better, He'd been stuck on a train from London for several hours, vowing to the City Hall audience never to travel on the British privatised rail network again.

The Sheffield screening was the film's British premiere and it was being shown via satellite at more than 100 cinemas as well. Moore had to go off and do a Q&A for the satellite audience, who were able to Tweet him questions, while the film was showing at the City Hall

In the film, the Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 director deftly used his usual mix of interviews and humour to highlight to Americans that people around the world have great ideas that could make life better. It turned that many had originated in the US in the first place.

The idea was to 'invade' those countries and take the ideas back to the US. Moore said that US audiences were genuinely astounded that Italians could enjoy eight weeks' paid holiday and other benefits and their companies were still profitable, for instance. In the US, there is no right to any paid holiday but many workers have two weeks a year, usually because trade unions fought for deals.

So he nabbed the idea of fantastic school meals from France, free university education from Slovenia, better women's rights from Tunisia, schools with no homework and no testing from world number one education provider Finland and a humanely-run prison service from Norway.

In the Sheffield Q&A he took every opportunity to encourage Brits to vote against Brexit, wondering: "Why would you vote to leave the Premier League"? He equated anti-EU sentiment with isolationism and anti-immigrant racism, although acknowledging the role of Fortress Europe in the current Mediterranean refugee crisis.

He said that the film, which has been showing in the US since February, served as a key part of his support for the left-wing Democrat Bernie Sanders in his campaign to win the Democrat presidential nomination.

Asked what he thought of the winner Hillary Clinton, he said that he hoped she would remember the work she'd done in trying to bring in universal healthcare when she was First Lady to Bill Clinton in 1993 and would return to her roots.

That reflected one of the themes of the film, that the world would be better run by women, like in Iceland, which elected the first woman leader in the world, and has almost equal numbers in parliament and company boardrooms. He said: "Women think more of the 'we' and men the 'I'."

He revealed that he had been physically attacked by right-wing opponents, including one man who was making a bomb but was caught by police. He'd decided to dispense with security staff and stop being afraid, though, saying: "I'm 62, I've had a long life. I figure if I go tomorrow, at least I've done some good and most people would be sorry to hear it".

Michel Moore is also speaking about his career tonight, Sunday June 12, in the Channel 4 Interview .

Sheffield Doc/Fest, Britain's biggest documentary film festival, continues until Wednesday, June 15, with a mixture of film showings and live events around the city centre. For more details, go to sheffdocfest.com