Thursday, June 30, 2011

Can 'documentary' films about Sarah Palin succeed?

When I first read about the Sarah Palin film "The Undefeated," I didn't think it could be successful, because I thought, "Who goes to a theatre and pays to see a documentary?" Aren't they all so boring that they eventually end up on TV? This morning there is an article at New York magazine about the two -- two! including Nick Broomfield's new, untitled film, which is an alternative to "The Undefeated" -- Palin documentaries, and it hints at how they could be successful. The article is by Claude Brodesser-akner, who writes about film for the magazine. Everyone may find the article incendiary in some way, even Madonna's fans, no matter which part of the political spectrum they inhabit:
... In the media, Palin is under constant (self-encouraged) scrutiny, as a magnet for both adulation and vilification. But when these docs come out, will anyone who either loves or hates her pay for the privilege of having their preconceptions reconfirmed? ...

... To be fair, docs are always a notoriously tricky niche in which to seek success, regardless of subject, and only a dozen have ever even grossed more than $13 million. (Four in this group came from lefty firebrand Michael Moore. The rest mostly star animals like penguins, lions, and Madonna.) And when it opens on July 15, The Undefeated will face another handicap: The audiences for documentaries are generally liberal, says Rocky Mountain Pictures principal Ron Rodgers, who released the 2008 pro-intelligent design documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (with star Ben Stein). "It's hard to keep the attention of the faith-based audience," says Rodgers. "Even with a faith-based message, they don’t like documentaries. [Expelled] performed poorly throughout the whole southeast - the whole Bible Belt was quite soft with it.”

Interestingly enough, Expelled did go on to gross $7.7 million, but it was thanks to Democratic ticket-buyers who were driven by curiosity, either intellectual or perverse. (There are those on the left who enjoy the act of getting apoplectic listening to opposing viewpoints: by screaming at Rush Limbaugh on their car radios, for example.) When Rocky Mountain gave its film a wide release, it had great - and unexpected - success in such liberal hubs as San Francisco's Embarcadero theater. ...

... Those behind Broomfield's untitled film are just as confident that their doc won't cross party lines in the other direction. First, there's the previously cited opinion that docs don't play as well in red states; but more specifically, Broomfield's spokesman Bright says that the film will turn off right wingers “because it’s the truth.” Zing!

Ultimately, how it does depends on what kind of story Broomfield tells. “The films themselves have to work as movies,” insists John Lesher, the former head of Paramount Vantage, which distributed An Inconvenient Truth. “Al Gore’s story is as much a story of his personal redemption as it a story about the issue of the climate crisis.” Ninety minutes of people pointing out various ways that Sarah Palin is evil may be cathartic for haters, but not necessarily anything they want to pay for. With Expelled, there was a curiosity factor, because while intelligent design is a term that's thrown around quite a bit, it's not explored in great detail on the news every day. But Palin is stubbornly omnipresent, and those who despise her know exactly why they do. (And getting mad at Fox News is free.) As one distribution chief says, “I root for their success — I want every movie to do well - but I think any [Palin] documentary’s prospects are cold — not cool, cold.” ...
I suppose a Palin documentary can be successful, if its budget is small.

New York magazine's post is "Sarah Palin Documentaries, Whether Pro or Con, Face a Tough Future."

The Hollywood Reporter has a post, "New Sarah Palin Documentary Emerges (Video)," which has clips from both films.

The Guardian has "Nick Broomfield film casts critical eye on Sarah Palin."

Do people really listen to Rush Limbaugh to get their blood pressure up?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My husband listens to Rush occasionally to find out "what the crazies are up to". I already have hypertension so the stations that carry Rush don't have a button on my car radio - even though one is local and carries the traffic reports. I'll find out about traffic by running into it before I support that station.