HBO’s Sarah Palin-John McCain movie Game Change, with Julianne Moore playing the former Alaska governor, has competition from a feature film that will get to the screen first. It’s the biopic Undefeated authorized by Palin, made by conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon (Generation Zero celebrating the Tea Party movement, and In The Face Of Evil lionizing President Reagan), and set to premiere in late June in Iowa and then other early presidential primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada. Then the film will eventually release into between 50 and 100 markets nationwide. It may also have a DVD life since there are preliminary discussion about purchasing copies of the film from Bannon to distribute as gifts to SarahPAC donors. And Bannon is counting on a video-on-demand deal.
Partisan filmmaking is a long tradition of recent presidential campaigns but usually as brief documentaries shown at Democratic National Conventions, like Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s The Man From Hope about their pal Bill Clinton in 1992, or Spike Jonze’s 13-minute short about Al Gore in 2000, or James Moll’s intro film for John Kerry in 2004 which Steven Spielberg helped edit, or Davis Guggenheim’s biopic for Barack Obama in 2008. But Undefeated appears to be the first feature film-length biopic and for an as-yet-undeclared presidential candidate.
Scott Conroy, a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics, has seen the film which he’s calling “Palin’s Secret Weapon” because it’s to “help catapult Palin from the presidential afterthought she has become in the eyes of many pundits directly to the front lines of the 2012 GOP conversation”. Interestingly, it features a clip sequence showing celebs like Rosie O’Donnell, Matt Damon, Bill Maher, David Letterman, and Howard Stern slamming Palin. It also features images of lions killing a zebra and a dead medieval soldier with an arrow sticking in his back to dramatize the Palin-haters. Two versions of the film reportedly will be released: an unrated edition will contain some obscene anti-Palin language and imagery, while the other is targeted to a general audience and will seek a PG-13 MPAA rating.
“Shortly after Republicans swept last November to a historic victory in which Sarah Palin was credited with playing a central role, the former Alaska governor pulled aside her close aide, Rebecca Mansour, to discuss a hush-hush assignment: Reach out to conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon with a request. Ask him if he would make a series of videos extolling Palin’s governorship and laying to rest lingering questions about her controversial decision to resign from office with a year-and-a-half left in her first term. It was this abdication, Palin knew, that had made her damaged goods in the eyes of some Republicans who once were eager to get behind her potential 2012 presidential campaign. The response was more positive than Palin could have hoped for. He’d make a feature-length movie, Bannon told Mansour, and he insisted upon taking complete control and financing it himself — to the tune of $1 million. The fruits of that initial conversation are now complete. The result is a two-hour-long, sweeping epic, a rough cut of which Bannon screened privately for Sarah and Todd Palin last Wednesday in Arizona, where Alaska’s most famous couple has been rumored to have purchased a new home. When it premieres in Iowa next month, the film is poised to serve as a galvanizing prelude to Palin’s prospective presidential campaign — an unconventional reintroduction to the nation that she and her political team have spent months eagerly anticipating, even as Beltway Republicans have largely concluded that she won’t run.” Bannon, a former naval officer and ex-Goldman Sachs banker, sees his documentary as the first step in Palin’s effort to rebuild her image in the eyes of voters who may have soured on her, yet might reconsider if old caricatures begin to fade. The film will also appeal to staunch Palin supporters who have long celebrated her biting rhetoric and conservative populism yet know little about her record in Alaska and have perhaps written her off as presidential material.”