Michael Moore looked to his friend Borat to help muster the nerve to sail into Guantanamo Bay.
Moore met “Borat” creator Sasha Baron Cohen at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival. Cohen was there to screen “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” which went on to become a $100 million hit, while Moore showed off footage shot for his health-care documentary, “Sicko,” which was to open nationwide Friday.
Cohen told Moore he had drawn inspiration from the filmmaker’s documentaries, in which Moore doggedly pursues corporate and political bosses and puts himself into uncomfortable situations.
Moore said Cohen thanked him for helping to provide the courage for his own daring adventures on “Borat,” in which Cohen’s Kazakh alter-ego wrestles naked with his portly producer and draws the ire of a rodeo crowd for butchering the national anthem.
“I said to him, ‘But yeah, I’ve never done anything like wrestle naked with another guy on the floor of an insurance-brokers or mortgage-brokers convention,” Moore told The Associated Press. “So after I saw ‘Borat,’ if he says I was an inspiration for those things, I now have to up the ante for him. So we sailed into the mined waters of Guantanamo Bay with sick 9/11 workers and a bullhorn.”
The scene in “Sicko” features Moore calling to guards at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, which houses terror suspects captured in military operations.
After seeing news reports about quality medical treatment the prison provided detainees, Moore went there to seek similar care for ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers who were having trouble getting health coverage in the United States.
Moore got no response from Guantanamo, so he took the workers to Cuba, where they received treatment. The U.S. Treasury Department began an investigation in May on whether Moore’s trip violated the trade embargo prohibiting travel to Cuba.
What was Moore thinking as he stood on the boat, calling through a bullhorn outside Guantanamo?
“Two thoughts. I’ve never seen anybody sail a boat into Guantanamo Bay in a movie or on TV. I’ve never seen that,” Moore said. “And the second thought: What the hell am I doing? There’s mines. This whole bay is mined, I think, by the Cubans and the Americans on each other’s sides. There’s guard towers, there’s soldiers with guns. How crazy is this?”