When Sarah Palin said, “More government is not the answer,” the audience in Theater 8 at AMC Barrett Commons 24 erupted with applause.
Understandably, filmmaker Stephen Bannon was all smiles.
“I actually got contacted by Gov. Palin’s political action committee to do a short video, or a couple of vignettes, about her time as governor of Alaska,” Bannon said earlier Friday evening.
“My partner and I, Glenn Evans, we had an idea about doing a feature film that really tells her entire story because we didn’t really think it had been told by the mainstream media.”
Bannon, the director of The Undefeated, attended the Kennesaw premiere of the documentary film Friday night. Kennesaw was one of 10 cities selected for screenings of the film, which entered limited theatrical release this weekend. Bannon’s previous works include 2010’s Generation Zero and 2004’s In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed.
“Arc Entertainment is an independent distributor, and I’m the head of a production company called Victory,” Bannon said. “We were very fortunate. It’s very unusual for a documentary to be released in a multiplex in the summer.”
Bannon said Arc Entertainment partnered with Cinedigm, a digital distribution company, for demographical analysis. He said AMC chose to release the film in areas where "people are very engaged with current political activities," specifically citing markets with strong Tea Party engagement.
“The strategy was to release the film in 10 markets ... where people are engaged, and there’s a lot of call-ins for talk radio and a lot of newspaper sales and also a Tea Party movement, and to put it in one theater in those markets and see if the thing can really play in a summer where you’re going to have Harry Potter,” Bannon said.
“We had about 40 folks come on June 30 to the theater,” said Robert Cunningham, a local coordinator for the screening. “Our goal was to screen the movie and, if we liked it, tell others about it. For about two weeks, we mobilized people and thought the message needed to be heard.”
“Luckily for us,” Cunningham said, “both theaters sold out tonight, and we’ll let the attendees decide for themselves what they think of the movie.”
Cunningham said the turnout for Friday night’s screenings was both inspiring and humbling.
“Regardless of who they vote for, regardless of where they stood before or where they stood after,” Cunningham said, “for almost three years now, there’s been no closing argument with Sarah Palin’s side. This movie had to kind of bypass the media filter and the media distortion to give a closing argument, or at least an argument, that this woman is not who she has been portrayed as.”
Reactions from filmgoers attending the screening were overwhelmingly positive.
“I support Sarah Palin because she’s a true American patriot,” said attendee Irma Munoz. “I have been a supporter of hers since 2008, when John McCain actually brought her onto the stage. I do believe she’s a godly woman, a woman after God’s heart, to do what is best for America, and not necessarily herself.”
“I believe she’s honestly just a great person,” said Garrett Wilson, who traveled from Chatsworth to attend Friday night’s screening of the film. “Seeing what she’s been through and that she's still smiling, after all that’s been said about her, the fact that she’s still able to go out there and speak her mind and try to influence policy is wonderful.”
“I think Sarah Palin is the only one I’ve seen that will tackle the establishment,” said attendee Polly Harper. “She has integrity, she’s honest, she’s tenacious, she overcomes obstacles, and she keeps going.”
“It’s going to be a game changer,” said attendee Kendall Gault. “It’s a really good film. It shows a lot about her history as a politician in Alaska and really sheds some light on her career.”
Bannon compared Palin’s policies to those of Ronald Reagan, stating that the Tea Party movement is “the natural evolution of the Reagan Revolution.” Bannon also said Palin represents an “existential threat” to the progressive left, stating that neither President Obama nor former President George W. Bush faced as much public scrutiny as Palin.
Although the film was produced with the aid of two prominent conservative media firms, Victory Film Group and CRC Public Relations, Bannon said his film isn’t political propaganda.
“Nobody’s challenged the facts in this film,” Bannon said. “If what the left can say after seeing that movie, and what she’s accomplished in Alaska, if the best they can say is I left out Troopergate, hey, guys, I left out Troopergate. It’s a total and complete nonevent.
“The reason I really wanted to make (the film) was because there was this meme out there that she was Caribou Barbie, a bimbo and an ideologue. The story in Alaska was completely different, the empirical evidence was completely different. I wanted to see if I could actually make a film to really set the record straight, and I thought it was a very compelling story.”
He added: “She was so obscure when the movie starts. Basically, she’s a nobody, and she rises to prominence through these old fashioned values. I thought, that’s not a Democrat or Republican story, that’s an American story.”
Check back with Patch for video highlights from the premiere, including reactions from moviegoers and our chat with filmmaker Stephen Bannon.