Magazine article Screen International

Toronto 2011: Nick Broomfield

Magazine article Screen International

Toronto 2011: Nick Broomfield

Article excerpt

British documentary film-maker Nick Broomfield talks to Jeremy Kay about the challenges of making Sarah Palin - You Betcha! which world premieres in Toronto.

Nick Broomfield, the director of such films as Kurt & Courtney and Biggie & Tupac, returns with a typically revealing portrait of a captivating American public figure, in this case the former Alaskan Governor and John McCain vice-Presidential running mate Sarah Palin, who is linked with a White House run in the not-too-distant future.

On the eve of the Toronto world premiere of Sarah Palin - You Betcha! [Sept 11] Broomfield talks about the difficulties of infiltrating the close-knit community of Wasilla, what he believes Palin represents to a disgruntled portion of the US electorate and how even film crews aren't immune to the close attention of the Department Of Homeland Security.

The project shot mostly in Palin's hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, in October 2010 and is funded in large part by Channel 4. However when it became clear it could become a feature, Broomfield and his producers sourced more than $30,000 from Kickstarter and brought in private investors. Cassian Elwes recently secured a US theatrical service deal through Freestyle Releasing and the film will open in the US on September 30. Content is handling international sales.

Why did you decide to turn your spotlight on Palin now?

I have done a series of films about iconic people and Sarah Palin seemed to fit in in that she was very representative of the incredible changes taking place in the US and particularly in the Republican Party over the last 10 years.

Don't we know enough about Palin already?

It was something I didn't know much about, so I wanted to use the film as a chance to do some catch-up myself and find out more about who she really was and what she represented and talk to people who really knew her, people who were mainly from the Republican Party. I got a real sense of who she was.

What was your strategy to infiltrate the close-knit home town of Wasilla?

We kept a very low profile and I think it paid off. The people in Wasilla and Alaska are very welcoming but very suspicious too of people wanting to do a 'hit job'. There was a big legacy after [Palin] had been the vice-presidential candidate and they had had a lot of press there. We wanted people to believe we were doing something in-depth and worthwhile. We took it very slowly and did everything possible not to upset people and not come in with an agenda and not push it too hard.

The authorities took issue with the shoot. What happened?

Part of my crew [producer Marc Hoeferlin and head researcher Sarah Reid] got arrested by Homeland Security because of visa irregularities and got sent back to England in orange jumpsuits. But they returned to the US two weeks later.

There are plenty of testimonials from Palin's disillusioned former associates, but precious few talking heads who come out in support of her. Why?

We tried to get hold of a lot of her old friends from school and the basketball team [she played on] but she doesn't have a lot of friends frankly from her days [as Mayor of Wasilla] or as Governor [of Alaska]. We must have tried 15 or 30 times to get people. My overall impression is there's a feeling in Wasilla that the Palins have moved on, so old ties in the community were kind of exhausted and people felt they had moved on to higher places and weren't interested in their old friends. It was actually very hard to find people. …

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