Shortly after Republicans swept last November to a historic victory in which Sarah Palin was credited with playing a central role, the former Alaska governor pulled aside her close aide, Rebecca Mansour, to discuss a hush-hush assignment: Reach out to conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon with a request. Ask him if he would make a series of videos extolling Palin’s governorship and laying to rest lingering questions about her controversial decision to resign from office with a year-and-a-half left in her first term. It was this abdication, Palin knew, that had made her damaged goods in the eyes of some Republicans who once were eager to get behind her potential 2012 presidential campaign.
The response was more positive than Palin could have hoped for. He’d make a feature-length movie, Bannon told Mansour, and he insisted upon taking complete control and financing it himself — to the tune of $1 million
The fruits of that initial conversation are now complete. The result is a two-hour-long, sweeping epic, a rough cut of which Bannon screened privately for Sarah and Todd Palin last Wednesday in Arizona, where Alaska’s most famous couple has been rumored to have purchased a new home. When it premieres in Iowa next month, the film is poised to serve as a galvanizing prelude to Palin’s prospective presidential campaign — an unconventional reintroduction to the nation that she and her political team have spent months eagerly anticipating, even as Beltway Republicans have largely concluded that she won’t run.
Bannon, a former naval officer and ex-Goldman Sachs banker, sees his documentary as the first step in Palin’s effort to rebuild her image in the eyes of voters who may have soured on her, yet might reconsider if old caricatures begin to fade. The film will also appeal to staunch Palin supporters who have long celebrated her biting rhetoric and conservative populism yet know little about her record in Alaska and have perhaps written her off as presidential material.
"This film is a call to action for a campaign like 1976: Reagan vs. the establishment," Bannon told RealClearPolitics. "Let’s have a good old-fashioned brouhaha."
RealClearPolitics was recently given an exclusive screening of a rough cut of the now finished film, which Bannon designed, in part, to help catapult Palin from the presidential afterthought she has become in the eyes of many pundits directly to the front lines of the 2012 GOP conversation.
Palin initially learned about Bannon’s work after she saw one of his previous films about the origins of the tea party movement, "Generation Zero," which premiered last year in Nashville and was later aired in prime time on the Fox News Channel. Impressed, Palin promoted "Generation Zero" via Twitter before later reaching out to Bannon about creating something to highlight her record in Alaska, where her performance in office was overshadowed by her resignation eight months after the 2008 presidential election.
Though she did not have any editorial role in the project, Palin facilitated access for Bannon and his film crew to key Alaskan defenders who were involved with the major achievements of her administration, and the filmmaker spent several weeks in the 49th state gathering archival film and conducting research and interviews for the project. He and his team took extraordinary measures to keep their endeavor secret.
When they requested from Alaska’s TV news stations footage that was shot during Palin’s political rise, they asked for additional tapes containing subject matters that were irrelevant to their project, in order not to raise suspicions. And rather than staying at the well-appointed Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, they instead took up temporary residence in low-key motels.
…coming on the heels of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s decision not to join the fray, many grassroots conservatives are clamoring for a candidate who has both the stature and the sizzle to compete with President Obama.
If she does decide to run, "The Undefeated" will be the key element to her initial coming-out party. The film’s impending release — and the frenzied media attention that it is sure to generate — will serve as a vivid wake-up call that despite the many obstacles in front of her, Palin’s entry into the race would turn the campaign on its head in an instant, just as it did in 2008.