Sarah Palin’s allies and devotees portray hers as a tale of triumph over corruption and persecution by the political left and right in a documentary to premiere this month in Iowa.
Now that story is getting the big-screen treatment in a way that's winning raves and respect from such establishment media outlets as National Public Radio.
“The Undefeated,” a feature-length film from director Stephen K. Bannon, chronicles the former Alaska governor’s rise, fall and re-emergence as Palin stokes speculation that she might enter the 2012 presidential race. After its debut in the home of the nation’s first presidential nominating caucuses, distributors plan rollouts in New Hampshire and South Carolina, two other early-voting states.
In a story on "Weekend Edition Sunday" dealing with the Hollywood influence on politics, NPR interviewed Bannon at length and respectfully, comparing him to liberal filmmaking icon Michael Moore. Bannon said he respects Moore as a master of the craft, though he disagrees with his politics.
What he does have, he told NPR, is an incredible story in Sarah Palin.
“People look at this as a kind of a ‘Rocky’ story,” Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs banker who has made movies about the Tea Party movement and Ronald Reagan, told reporters at a screening last week. “It’s a true story of American grit and tenacity.”
The film follows an attention-grabbing “One Nation” Palin bus tour through the Northeast, a trip that sparked questions about her 2012 intentions and diverted attention and media coverage from Republicans already in the race.
The film focuses on Palin’s record as governor, casting her as a pure-hearted public servant among “corrupt bastards” who was savaged by the establishment and elite on both sides threatened by her unconventional ways.
Rebecca Mansour, a top Palin aide working for her political action committee, approached the filmmaker in December 2010, Bannon said. Palin’s organization arranged access to allies in Alaska who narrated large parts of the story, and to Palin’s parents, who supplied photographs and home videos of her as a child private until now.
The family album contrasts with images and footage depicting the criticism Palin and members of her family faced after she made her debut in August 2008 as Arizona Senator John McCain’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket.
A sequence about the controversies Palin confronted when she returned to Alaska following her failed vice presidential bid is paired with footage of lions chasing, killing and feasting on the remains of a zebra in the bush. Another picture portrays a medieval warrior lying dead with an arrow in his back.
In a section about an ethics overhaul that Palin pushed as governor, Bannon cuts to a boxer in a ring for the Rocky metaphor.
Palin’s Alaska loyalists, including lawyer Tom Van Flein, former spokeswoman Meg Stapleton and former state Natural Resources Department officials Tom Irwin and Marty Rutherford, tell part of the story. Palin narrates parts, with clips from the audio version of her 2009 book “Going Rogue.” Commentators including Andrew Breitbart, Mark Levin and Tammy Bruce also give testimonials.
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The film opens with celebrities including actor Matt Damon, comedian Bill Maher and radio’s Howard Stern criticizing Palin, yet avoids mention of episodes including the so-called “Troopergate” investigation into whether Palin abused her powers as governor by firing a commissioner who would not dismiss her former brother-in-law.
Bannon said he spent $1 million of his own money making the film and had “total control” of a project intended to dispel Palin myths such as the caricature of “Caribou Barbie.”
The film challenges elected Republicans including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, pictured as Breitbart speaks of “eunuchs who have run as men but aren’t men” for allowing Palin to be criticized.
“To hell with the establishment, because the establishment has put us in this position in the first place,” Breitbart says near the end of the film. “America now has an alternative, and Sarah Palin is that alternative.”
Palin’s aides didn’t respond to a request for comment on the film, though she gave it two thumbs up in a May 31 interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News, which employs the former governor as a commentator.
“It blew me away,” Palin told Van Susteren.
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