Glen Asbury was in the Twin Cities for Right Online 2011, the site of the first screening of Stephen Bannon’s “The Undefeated” before a large audience. Asbury writes at Big Hollywood that the “Three Minute Hate” opening sequence lived up (or should that be lived down?) to its advance billing. After the initial shock, the film begins to tell its story of the political career of the woman who is the object of all that vile hatred from the dregs of the left:
We observe how Palin’s formative years in a middle-class, values-oriented family in an almost frontier-like Alaska town contributed to the convictions she embraces today. We see the indelible impression the devastation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill imprinted on a young Sarah’s perspective and how the aftermath subconsciously propelled her to public service.If the purpose of "the Undefeated" is to change minds about Sarah Palin, or at least to persuade people to get beyond the media misrepresentation of the first woman to serve as governor of Alaska and give her a second look, then the film seems to have succeeded at least with one member of the ROL audience. Seated next to Asbury at the screening was a friend he describes as a traditional conservative, but far from being a Palinista. However, near the end of the film, Asbury says his “leaned over and whispered, 'Palin’s governorship wasn’t ideological in the least; it was practical!'”
We then gain entrance to the behind-the-scenes machinations of the corruption to which Alaskan politics had succumbed for decades. Sarah Palin’s determination to upend the status quo and introduce transparency to the mix brought her into the mayoral race in her hometown of Wasilla. The same commitment to open government led Palin to take on the Frank Murkowski machine in Alaska and emerge an upset winner. And then, of course, GOP Presidential nominee John McCain came calling in 2008…
Along the way, the single greatest liability of The Undefeated also constitutes its boldest stroke of effectiveness. I had heard Stephen Bannon address a social media gathering at the Heritage Foundation the previous week. He told the assembled activists at that time that the untold story of Sarah Palin is that she was a leader of substance and savvy. He also candidly advised that the section of the documentary that covers this phase of Palin’s career is slow in spots and runs a bit long.
Bannon was correct on both counts. The typical documentary is in the neighborhood of 90 minutes in length. The Undefeated runs for two hours. At times, perhaps partially due to the lateness of the hour, exertion was required to maintain focus.
But in the end, Bannon delivers the goods in a fashion that lingers. Learning about how Palin convinced the Alaska legislature to approve the Aegea gas pipeline and grant the license to TransCanada/Alaska may not constitute scintillating viewing. The meticulous planning that resulted in newly paved roads and renewed infrastructure across Alaska isn’t spellbinding cinematic fare. But the determination and grit that led Palin to success in these efforts garnered an 80% (I reiterate: EIGHTY percent) approval rating as governor across her native state.
Now that's just one person's opinion. But that is how Bannon's landmark documentary is going to have to change minds, one at a time. The clear message for Palin supporters, then, is to get as many people who are either undecided about Gov. Palin or who have bought into the media's false narrative about her into theater seats to view “The Undefeated” and decide for themselves.