14 December 2011

SARAH PALIN: YOU BETCHA! Including Q & A with NICK BROOMFIELD (Dir. Nick Broomfield, 2011, UK/USA)

This Cornerhouse event in Manchester was a real delight and pleasure. After the screening, documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield appeared on stage and offered a candid insight into the process of making this expose on Sarah Palin. After the interview, the floor was opened to questions from the audience and there were some really terrific questions especially the final one which focused on the relationship between Broomfield’s latest documentary and Tracking Down Maggie. This look at Sarah Palin signals Broomfield’s return to the documentary medium since his highly personal Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer in 2003. I was amazed that Broomfield only spent ten days on research before setting of to Alaska to begin filming. Given his influence in the evolution of the performative documentary mode, Broomfield’s approach bears strong parallels to Tracking Down Maggie in that Palin proves to be an allusive and resolutely inaccessible figure. Thematically, Broomfield’s interest is not really with Palin but with what she represents in terms of ideals, namely Evangelical Christianity and its hold on the Republican Tea party movement. Broomfield spent three months in Alaska, visiting Palin’s hometown and getting beneath the media construct by interviewing her so called enemies. In Tracking Down Maggie, Broomfield’s initial aim of securing an interview with Margaret Thatcher gradually transforms into an investigation about her son’s illegal activities. Although Broomfield tries his best to confront Palin he ultimately fails and this failure to fulfil the original aim of his documentary is painfully transparent. Morgan Spurlock, Louis Theroux and Michael Moore have all been influenced by Broomfield’s on screen presence and his interaction with his subject matter makes much of his work both highly subjective and interpretative. Sarah Palin: You Betcha! is equally entertaining as the rest of Broomfield’s work and his recognisable charm and wit are evident throughout the narrative.

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