24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Sarah Palin

Toronto 2011: Sarah Palin gets a Bronx cheer

September 9, 2011 |  3:33 pm

Sarah Palin got a close-up of sorts with this summer's "The Undefeated," Stephen Bannon's adoring portrait of the former vice presidential candidate. Now in the new film "Sarah Palin: You Betcha!," acclaimed British documentarian Nick Broomfield and partner Joan Churchill offer the antithesis — a cutting documentary that aims to expose Palin as petty and vindictive.

The movie, which premiered for the media Friday afternoon at the Toronto International Film Festival, doesn't offer a lot of new details for those who've closely followed Palin's career over the last three years. But a distinct portrait does emerge from Broomfield and Churchill's dozens of interviews, many in and around her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska.

Broomfield flirts a little bit with the depiction of Palin as an empty vessel, trotting out some of the more well-known charges about her lack of historical and geographic sophistication. But he's mainly concerned with how the ex-governor works and gets along with other people.

Although the filmmakers grab a quick early interview with Chuck and Sally Heath, Palin's parents, who remain firmly in her corner, most of the attention goes to various professional and personal associates in Alaska, where she of course served as mayor and governor before her emergence on the national scene. Many of these confidantes have lost their warm feelings for her, and then some. Broomfield also devotes a significant amount of time to an interview with Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten, Palin's former brother-in-law, whom the governor allegedly tried to get fired after his marriage to Palin's sister broke up.

The sum total of Broomfield's research — whether with a former Wasilla mayor (and Palin mentor), a fired legislative advisor or a town gossip who was once close to the Palins and Heaths — is of a personality who can turn quickly and decisively against her allies and sees the world in strict with-us-or-against-us terms.

What first might strike some filmgoers as a matter of standard political maneuvering soon becomes more pathological. As Stephen Schmidt, the John McCain advisor who initially advised choosing Palin for the ticket but wound up souring on her, says, Palin has "40 or 50 or 60 feuds" going at any one time.

Broomfield's approach of talking mainly to enemies (perhaps not by design, since her current allies were surely not running around giving interviews to him) can give the sense of a stacked deck. Still, the very fact at Palin has so many enemies in the first place, and from within her own campaign and party, is telling.  (Broomfield juxtaposes a lot of these interviews with an attempt to sketch out Palin's belief system from her church and other affiliations; those moments pack less punch.)

When it comes to landing the big fish, Broomfield tends to practice a Michael Moore approach--he turns abortive attempts to land an interview into its a kind of theater. He did this to hilarious effect with Courtney Love in the 1998 cult hit "Kurt and Courtney" before eventually landing a damning on-the-fly interview.

Here, using the same clueless deadpan that elicited laughter a number of times from the Toronto audience, Broomfield succeeds in meeting her in public forums a few times. But he only gets one question off, at an event  in Oklahoma where he shouts from the back of the room a question about whether she believes her political career is over (clip below). Palin hesitates, then gestures to all the people who've attended as counter-evidence.

Still, it's hard to escape the the feeling that, for all its entertainment value and even some of its insight, "Sarah Palin: You Betcha" is a little bit out of date; it's quickly clear Palin doesn't have nearly the political stature she did when this film was being shot. Broomfield seems to acknowledge this at the end even as he expresses worry over what a Palin White House would look like. We don't suppose he'll be working on a Rick Perry film anytime soon?

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Director Nick Broomfield in front of an image of Sarah Palin. Credit: Toronto International Film Festival.


Sarah Palin doc 'The Undefeated' will try its luck on TV

July 25, 2011 |  1:03 pm

By now, the Sarah Palin documentary "The Undefeated" is a veritable flop, barely eking out $100,000 in two weeks of theatrical release. But the company releasing it believes it could find an audience on the small screen.

Undefeatedpa The film's distributor, ARC Entertainment, has announced that it will make the movie available as an on-demand title via satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network as well as cable company Time Warner beginning on Sept. 1. Director Stephen Bannon initially told 24 Frames of the on-demand plans last month.

ARC, which estimates the deal will make the movie available in about 75 million homes, also announced that a DVD will follow via retailers on Oct. 4. A "special edition" with unspecified original content will be sold only through Wal-Mart.

Most theatrical films take several months to come to television, though independent releases and documentaries often debut day-and-date with theatrical releases, or shortly after. The hope for "Undefeated" is that audiences who have decided not to go out and pay to see the professional rise of Sarah Palin will be more willing to order it at a lower cost in their homes.


Why Sarah Palin documentary The Undefeated isn't a hit

Director of Sarah Palin documentary The Undefeated says he will release an uncut version

A secretive Sarah Palin documentary about Nick Broomfield is nearly complete

-- Steven Zeitchik


 Photo: "The Undefeated." Credit: ARC Entertainment

Why Sarah Palin documentary 'The Undefeated' isn't a hit

July 18, 2011 | 10:33 am

From the moment the Sarah Palin documentary "The Undefeated" was announced, many on the left tittered about its title. How could director Stephen Bannon give that name to a movie about someone who had, in fact, been defeated, and on the largest stage imaginable?

The film's box-office returns this past weekend have given us the next, and possibly more curious, phase of the debate. Bannon's film, which covers the professional career of the former Alaska governor, took in between $60,000 and $75,000 when it opened in 10 markets, its distributor said.

According to pretty much all conventional box-office wisdom, that's a miss. The film averaged only $6,750 per theater, a small number for  any limited-release movie. ($10,000 or $20,000 is considered standard, and it's not uncommon for movies to take in $30,000 or more.)

But those behind it had a different take. The distributor, ARC Entertainment, sent out a press release blaring a "strong opening for 'The Undefeated,' with multiple sold-out runs and vocal audience support." In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bannon said that  "to characterize ['The Undefeated'] as anything less than a hit would be a mistake."

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In new documentary, fans say why they believe Sarah Palin is undefeated [Trailer]

July 7, 2011 |  5:34 pm

"Daughter. Mother. Wife. Warrior." So begins the new trailer for Stephen Bannon's Sarah Palin documentary, "The Undefeated," before it goes on to offer testimonials to Palin's justice-seeking ways and her crusade against the Alaska Republican establishment. "Like a Marine, she runs toward the danger," goes one of the testimonials, which come largely from a group of young and attractive women and are cut between quick shots of the former vice presidential candidate in action.

The trailer, which also features general anti-establishment messages from Bannon and participant/champion Andrew Breitbart, plays somewhere between "Erin Brockovich" and a campaign commercial. Interestingly, there is no mention of Palin's pop-cultural smearing that has been the subject of several interviews with both Bannon and the politician.

Filmgoers will get the chance to evaluate for themselves — or marshal evidence for beliefs they already have — next Friday, when the movie opens in Orange County, or the following weekend, when it opens in Los Angeles.


Director of Sarah Palin documentary says he will release an uncut version

A secretive Nick Broomfield documentary about Sarah Palin could soon be heading to theaters

Should Glenn Beck and Nick Broomfield really be lionizing Sarah Palin?

— Steven Zeitchik




Director of Sarah Palin documentary 'The Undefeated' says he will release an uncut version -- 'I took out all sorts of violence'

June 29, 2011 |  8:39 pm

Photo: Sarah Palin at the "Undefeated" premiere in Pella, Iowa. Credit: Andrea Melendez /Associated Press "The Undefeated," Stephen Bannon's documentary about the emergence of Sarah Palin on the national political scene, aims to show what the filmmaker calls a "pop-culture beat-down" of the former Alaska governor.

Although the film has been tagged with only a PG-13 rating for "brief strong language" by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Bannon said he has created an explicit cut of the film that demonstrates that beat-down in more graphic terms. "I took out all sorts of violence and masked the vulgarity for the theatrical release because I wanted families to be able to see the film," Bannon told 24 Frames on Wednesday.

In the cut that will be shown in AMC movie theaters beginning July 15, Madonna, Louis C.K. and Pamela Anderson are among those shown in public appearances to be using epithets about the former vice presidential candidate.

Bannon said the new cut would feature things like "crucifixions, lynching and suicides," but declined to say who was behind these comments or where they appeared, saying only vaguely that they came from "Facebook and Twitter."

"People think Tina Fey is the worst of what's out there, and they have no idea," he said, referring to the actress' impersonations of Palin on "Saturday Night Live."

Of course, politicians on both the right and left have often been subject to hateful speech and worse: President Obama has been the target of racist language and threats from various quarters, and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was the victim of actual violence in Arizona. But Bannon said he believes Palin has been a singular target of hatemongers.

The filmmaker said his alternative version would be released to television via on-demand platforms and a deal with DirecTV. A spokesman for the satellite operator did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment.

Bannon said he had initially gone to the MPAA with the harder-edged version, but "I was told I'd get much more than an R, so it would have to go unrated" to get released. (Filmmakers with racy or controversial material often opt to leave their films unrated rather than suffer the stigma and potential distribution challenges of an NC-17.)

But a source familiar with the MPAA submission process who asked not to be identified because that process is confidential said the group received just one cut, which wound up getting the PG-13.

Bannon said he aimed to make a movie that didn't wade into ideological questions and simply showed how a woman worked her way to the top of the political heap, but one that also subverts assumptions about her politics.

"In the popular imagination Gov. Palin is a lightweight who's an ideologue, and the reality is so different from that," Bannon said. "This is a woman who's the kind of political leader we need today because she builds a coalition," Bannon said, citing, among other things, her support of energy legislation in Alaska that angered large oil companies.

Palin created a stir at the premiere in Iowa on Tuesday night when she said in an interview that Hollywood was "full of hate."

Although Bannon said that Hollywood was a secondary focus of his film, he believes that when it comes to Palin, the entertainment business ignores performers who cross the line of civility. "How does Hollywood make Tracy Morgan beg forgiveness and go to reeducation for his homophobic comments, but then no one says a word when he calls Sarah Palin 'good masturbation material?' " Bannon said, referring to the actor's remark on a TNT NBA broadcast. "It's hypocrisy. Let's call it what it is."


Sarah Palin documentary: A conservative nod to the politician

A secretive Nick Broomfield doc on Sarah Palin is nearly complete

Premiere of 'The Undefeated' sets stage for new round of Sarah Palin vs. Hollywood

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Sarah Palin at the "Undefeated" premiere in Pella, Iowa. Credit: Andrea Melendez /Associated Press

Premiere of 'The Undefeated' sets stage for new round of Sarah Palin vs. Hollywood

June 29, 2011 |  7:36 am


Last fall, Hollywood was pulled into the Sarah Palin media frenzy when "The Social Network" writer Aaron Sorkin took some shots at Palin in a news interview and also called her a "witless bully" for her hunting exploits on the Learning Channel. Last night Hollywood and Palin again intersected when the former vice presidential candidate called out celebrities for the "hate" they've directed toward her.

The one-time Alaska governor was on hand for a premiere of Stephen Bannon's pro-Palin documentary "The Undefeated" in Iowa on Tuesday night. The movie's opening showed a montage of celebrities -- many of them comedians, including Louis C.K., Bill Maher and David Letterman -- making expletive-laden jokes about her, drawing apparent jeering from the crowd watching the movie. After the screening, Palin sounded a bemused note to the Hollywood Reporter.

“It makes you want to reach out to some of these folks and say, ‘What’s your problem?’ ” Palin told the paper. “What would make a celebrity, like you saw on screen, so hate someone that they’d seek their destruction, their death, the death of their children? What would make someone be so full of hate?” None of those cited in the documentary have responded as yet, though given the history of the Palin-Hollywood sparring, it likely won't be very long before some do.

The premiere otherwise had the feel of a rally, according to several reports, with pro-Palin and anti-Obama T-shirts and signs mixed in amid the crowd, and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart taking the stage, along with Palin, after the screening. The event, which took place in the small town of Pella and featured a post-screening barbecue, was held in Iowa on the same day that both President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann visited the caucus state.

According to reports from the screening, the movie follows Palin's upbringing and Alaska governorship before the third act moves to her vice-presidential run. The movie will open in an unconventional distribution arrangement, bypassing traditional distributors to be shown in AMC Theaters. The film will open July 15 in a number of markets, including Orange County, Denver and Houston, according to a statement from AMC. Los Angeles is not mentioned as a target market.


Aaron Sorkin: Not hitting 'like' on Sarah Palin

Hawkeye State showdown: Sarah Palin documentary to debut in Iowa

A secretive Nick Broomfield documentary about Sarah Palin is nearly complete

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Sarah Palin at the post-screening barbecue in Pella, Iowa. Credit: Andrea Melendez / Associated Press

A secretive Nick Broomfield documentary about Sarah Palin is nearly complete -- and could soon be heading to theaters

June 10, 2011 |  8:11 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Sarah Palin receives what is by all indications a very kind treatment in a new documentary that will premiere in theaters July 15. But a second, far more scathing Palin documentary is being prepared by a more experienced filmmaker. And it looks a lot more likely to stir the pot.

Nick Broomfield, the much-decorated British documentarian and muckraker, has quietly been interviewing Palin confidantes and is close to finishing his film about the former Alaska governor, said a person who was briefed on the film but asked not to be identified because of the secretive nature of the project.

According to the source, among the people who appear in the untitled movie are Palin’s parents as well as numerous ex-aides. Many of those people, the source added, describe her not as the likable repository of aw-shucks wisdom Palin likes to present but a more ruthless politician who has trampled over opponents and is now a potential presidential candidate.

Working with a minimal crew and in a gonzo style, Broomfield is known for his unusual access to  subjects, securing candid interviews in his films about Heidi Fleiss, Kurt Cobain and rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. At times controversial for his unorthodox and energetic style, Broomfield has nonetheless received a bevy of documentary prizes and received a lifetime achievement award at the BAFTA Awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars.

Potential U.S. distributors will soon be contacted about Broomfield’s Palin film and could see a full version within a few weeks, said the source. The film could then play fall film festivals such as Toronto, with a distributor getting the opportunity to release it into the teeth of the 2012 election cycle, in which Palin is expected to be a key player.

Cassian Elwes, a veteran of the independent film world, is peddling rights to U.S. film companies in conjunction with another movie-business veteran, Jamie Carmichael. Elwes did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

News of the Broomfield film comes as AMC Theaters announced Friday it will play “The Undefeated," a film by Stephen Bannon, a Tea Party activist who interviewed numerous Palin supporters for his movie. While Palin does not appear in the film, the site Real Clear Politics reported that she helped coordinate interviews for it. According to CBS News, whose correspondent watched  "The Undefeated," the movie staunchly defends Palin and gives the strong impression that she will run for president.

Though “The Undefeated” has yet to  ignite passions in pundit circles,  the Broomfield movie could become a lightning rod as Palin either runs for president or plays an important part in defining the Republican Party’s 2012 platform.

Broomfield has a habit of making news with his window into the lives of the controversial and famous. In "Kurt & Courtney," he ambushed the late grunge rocker's widow, Courtney Love, and landed a damning interview with her. Love successfully sought to have the movie banned from the Sundance Film Festival. But it remains to be seen whether Broomfield’s Palin film will play to a larger audience or to a crowd predisposed against the politician.


Sarah Palin emails: Obama gave a 'great speech' on energy

Sarah Palin emails show an engaged governor mistrustful of the media

Should Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin really be lionizing Ronald Reagan?

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Sarah Palin. Credit: Ed Andrieski/Associated Press


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