It would probably have been safe to assume on November 5, 2008 that Sarah Palin’s fifteen minutes were up. Vilified by the lamestream media and bad-mouthed by McCain campaign insiders, there seemed to be nowhere for her to go but back to the Great White North, where she’d quietly serve out the last two years of her gubernatorial term.
The canny pol, however, had no intention of being forgotten by Real Americans throughout the lower 48. Palin loved the limelight more than she loved the legislative process and resigned from office the following July. Since then she’s parlayed her infamy into two plus years of television appearances, patriotic road trips, and book signings. Marshall McLuhan would either be very proud, or extremely ill.
However, the endless campaign to keep the spotlight on Sarah hit a speed bump earlier this year. A hagiographic documentary entitled The Undefeated leaked into a few dozen red state theaters over the summer and subsequently crashed and burned at the box office. It seemed that America’s appetite for Caribou Barbie had finally been sated.
Not so fast! With the release of Nick Broomfield’s new feature, Sarah Palin: You Betcha!, blue staters have an opportunity to bask in the celluloid glow of the woman they love to hate (or at least make fun of). Currently screening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, the film is a compendium of perfidy guaranteed to soothe the soul of Democrats and fellow travelers disappointed at the performance of their own political savior.
Best known for 1998’s Kurt and Courtney, a rock doc that lent credence to the theory that Kurt Cobain’s wife may have conspired to kill her rock star hubby, Broomfield has a reputation as a cinema bad boy as interested in stirring up trouble as in casting light — a slightly politer British version of Michael Moore, if you will.
There’s much more to Broomfield’s career, however, than Kurt and Courtney (and its inflammatory hip-hop doppelganger, Biggie and Tupac), including Tattooed Tears, an astonishing look at the parlous state of California’s juvenile justice system; Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, in which the director managed to get an interview with his death row subject; and 2006’s semi-fictional Ghosts, a shocking neo-realist drama based on the drowning of two dozen Chinese migrant laborers cockling in northwest England’s Morecambe Bay.
Produced for Britain’s Channel 4, You Betcha! sees Broomfield travel to the meth capital of Alaska in hopes interviewing Sarah Barracuda (a nickname she acquired in high school thanks to her resemblance to Heart lead singer Ann Wilson). He doesn’t succeed, of course, but does get up-close-and-personal footage with Palin’s parents, Chuck and Sally, as well as dirt-dishing interviews with a whole buncha folks who have their differences with Sarah, including political enemies and former allies such as John Stein, John Bitney, Colleen Cottle, and Lyda Green.
Despite this impressive array of talking heads, however, there are precious few revelations in Bloomfield’s film. Stories of Palin’s political backstabbing and fundamentalist faith have been thoroughly documented in the past, and are supplemented here by well-worn YouTube footage of Sarah’s beauty pageants, basketball games, and television sports casts.
If you’re a fan of the director’s deadpan passive-aggressive approach, however, you’ll find much here to enjoy, including an amusing conversation with Levi Johnston’s agent, and an interview with a Wasilla-born Cal grad who believes Palin aspires to be the world’s most popular pre-teen girl. And don’t walk out before the credit crawl, which is accompanied by Sarah’s infamous phone interview with ‘Nicolas Sarkozy’. Even if you’ve heard it before, it remains comedy gold.
John Seal writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly.
To find out what is going on in Berkeley and nearby, be sure to check out Berkeleyside’s recently launched Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.