As I rode the elevator to the second floor of 729 7th Avenue, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was about a half hour away from watching The Undefeated, Stephen K. Bannon’s two-hour documentary designed to set the record straight about the record of
Caribou Barbie, the Mayor of Wasilly, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
I saw the Magno Studio logo on the wall upon arriving at my floor and knew I was in the right place. But imagine my shock when I rounded the corner and found… three older men sitting on a long bench, waiting outside of not a large movie theatre but a small screening room. When Team Sarah warned that seating was “very limited”, they meant it, but then again, we were quite early. Milling about in the background, I would later confirm, was none other than Benyamin Korn, founder of Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin. He had seen the 1:00 showing of the film, and I was about to view the 3:30.
I sat down and struck up a conversation with one of the men. His name was Bill, and it turned out he was the dad of Ron DeVito, head of the New York chapter of Organize4Palin. We chatted away to pass the time, talking about our families and even his service in World War II — the European Theatre, to be precise. Eventually, my friend, Louis, a fellow Palinista whom I met networking over Facebook, showed up, and we waited together for the doors to open.
There were, at most, 25 to 30 people seated in the tiny room, and soon after we took our seats, we were handed free Palin swag by Team Sarah representatives. It’s a pity I don’t have a car — or a licence, for that matter — that bumper sticker would have looked really sweet on my ride. Once we were all settled, the director himself addressed us.
He said what many of you have read several times over: This film is not meant for us, the Ordinary Barbarians who toil in the trenches daily, fighting the good fight for Governor Palin. This film is for the average American voter who, inundated with smears in both the media and pop culture, has been misled into thinking that the Governor is an incompetent, uniformed fool, who has no business even considering seeking higher office. This film is not merely meant to preach to the choir so we can give ourselves a collective pat on the back for righteously supporting Governor Palin. This film is meant to change minds.
We saw the same rough cut of the documentary that Palin herself saw; the version that will hit mainstream theatres next month will have an original score (currently, most of the music used is the sort of fare many a film student has used when throwing together a class project in iMovie), smoothed out audiovisual editing and, in the unrated version, even more nasty, unfiltered footage of the Governor’s detractors at the outset of the film. That having been said, The Undefeated, even at this 95 percent complete stage, is excellent, and I would happily see it again, as a finished product.
The Undefeated is far longer than the average documentary, clocking in at approximately two hours, but the first hour, which mostly covers Palin’s early life and political career, passes in the blink of an eye. The film is fast-paced, shooting the viewer from topic to topic at a roller coaster’s pace, yet still giving a comprehensive summary of the issues and events that shaped the formative years of Governor Palin’s political life. Anyone who has read Going Rogue will feel at home watching The Undefeated. The film is divided into three acts, each of which is further divided into chapters, most of which are titled using language from the book. Palin’s narration from her memoir flows perfectly with the action on-screen, which is a steady mix of archived news footage and short, often humorous scenes used to illustrate her story. This was a relief for me, because when I read that the film incorporated illustrative scenes into the narration of the film, the first thought to spring to mind was of the corny cutaways Bill O’Reilly uses whenever he does an interview with Dennis Miller. This, thankfully, is not the case.
Equally impressive were the interviews with Palin confidantes and other supporters, who present the case for Palin in simple, non-condescending language so that even a political layman could understand them. It should come as no shock that conservative heavyweights like Andrew Breitbart, Tammy Bruce and Mark Levin are superb, but I was most shocked by how well the lesser-known interviewees, like Young America’s Foundation Vice President Kate Obenshain and Tea Party activist Sonnie Johnson, performed in articulating their arguments for Governor Palin.
The second act of the film is by far the most dense in terms of information. It explains how Palin, at this point in the film Governor of Alaska, took on State issues that were both politically treacherous, as well as extremely complicated. Tax policy, energy policy, ethics reform — all are explained in vivid and clear detail. As Bannon himself explained to us after the film, we basically ingested the sort of knowledge taught in a Harvard Business School class, and unlike Bannon, the average American is certainly not a Harvard graduate. In fact, neither is Governor Palin, but she was able to craft sound, workable policies that — dare I say — fundamentally transformed her State, fiscally, economically and politically.
The third and final act of the film places Palin in the wider context of the Tea Party movement. The values she has espoused over the course of her two decades of public service are the same values hollered from the streets by the everyday citizens who take to the streets every April 15 to party like it’s 1773. Even if the Tea Party has no official leader, it is not inaccurate to describe Palin as proto-Tea Party, as an amalgam of the spirit of the movement itself: the idea that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things because of American exceptionalism — and no, not merely the special way we Americans see America the way the British see Britain and the Greeks see Greece.
After the film ended, Bannon talked with us for over an hour, answering our questions at length. The consensus in the room was that the film was great, but one comment in particular shocked me. One of the three older men whom I saw when I first arrived at the waiting area admitted that even he, a strong Palin fan, had begun to fall for the false narrative that she had been a poor executive during her time in office. Without hesitation, the man said he no longer believed that. The Undefeated serves not only as the antidote to the misinformation polluting the minds of average voters; it is a booster shot to those who are already predisposed to support Governor Palin but might be wavering in their fervour.
As I said my good-byes and left Magno Studio, I found myself feeling refreshed, emotionally and politically. I met so many kind, ordinary people, all of whom are sincere in their support for Governor Palin. These are not ignorant, malicious partisans; they are your family, your friends and your neighbours. We Palinistas aren’t an angry horde. We just want our elected leaders to start following our Constitution, that sacred charter of liberty, once again; to start serving us, rather than expecting us to serve them; to go forth with servants’ hearts.
Who best fits the bill for that elected leader? Who is this unnamed, elusive figure? Watch The Undefeated, and you should have a good idea. If you can’t see November from your house already, watching this film will toss you a pair of binoculars. “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” as the Good Book says. We know where the Governor’s allegiances and support lie and, unfortunately, those of the so-called progressive movement. Where do yours lie? Watch this film, do your research — and take a stand.
From left to right, Team Sarah Coordinator Jackie Siciliano, Israeli-American singer Ricky Pen and Team Sarah PR Representative Maxine Simson
The Undefeated director Stephen K. Bannon and your humble blogger