First Night: Sarah Palin: You Betcha! Toronto Film Festival
Broomfield's pursuit of Palin runs out of puff
Monday 12 September 2011
"The hottest governor in the coldest state" is the latest target for Nick Broomfield, who in October 2010 took his microphone and camera to Sarah Palin's home town of Wasilla, Alaska, in an attempt to discover the truth behind the "hockey mom" myth.
The trouble is that Palin has been under so much scrutiny since coming in from the cold, when she was anointed the saviour of John McCain's ailing presidential campaign, that there are no stones left for Broomfield to turn.
Starting with archive footage of Palin's famous acceptance speech in which she declared that the difference between a woman and a Rottweiler was lipstick, Broomfield regurgitates the myth of the competitive Christian mother who at one time had an approval rating of 98 per cent.
Broomfield struggles to keep his footing on Wasilla's icy roads – a good metaphor for the film, which skates on thin ice as a journalistic endeavour.
Proceedings get off to a good start when the British documentarian ventures to Palin's parents' house and is invited in by her dad, Chuck Heath. The initial depiction is of an endearing old man bewildered by his daughter's success. Broomfield then meets some members of Palin's former Alaskan political team, Anne Kilkenny, John Bitney and Colleen Cottle, who chat about the zest of the Governor. Going against conventional thought is Broomfield's forte, and he's surprisingly at his strongest when praising Palin.
But it is all predictably a case of building 'em up so you can knock 'em down. After Palin declines his written request for an interview, Broomfield seeks her out at a book signing in Texas. When he asks if she would give an interview, the response gives the movie its title: "I could do that, you betcha!"
But still it proves elusive: the interview between Palin and Broomfield that the documentary is crying out for never happens. Instead Broomfield meets more and more people willing to tell him what a kooky, mean, competitive woman Palin is. All her former political colleagues bear grudges against her. Levi Johnston, famous for fathering a child with Palin's eldest daughter out of wedlock, tries to get money for an interview.
Broomfield is clearly frustrated that none of Palin's associates or close friends will talk, and in one of the few belly laugh moments ventures to Alexandria, Egypt, to find the only former classmate willing to talk.
Palin is attacked from all sides for her religious beliefs; even the town pastor, Howard Bess, says she is a zealot willing to take "an eye for an eye" too far.
From religion, Broomfield moves on to guns, drugs and affairs. The trouble is that all the dirty laundry has already been aired, and the desire of Palin's supporters for her to run for President has been undermined. Without a Palin interview, the documentary has no meat to add to the bones.
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