Pella Chronicle

Local News

June 28, 2011

Pella welcomes Sarah Palin

Pella — Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was welcomed by hundreds of media and fans as she made her way into the Pella Opera House for the premiere of a documentary based on her political career, "The Undefeated."

The film is currently playing to a crowd of over 300 inside the historic opera house. Members of the media were not allowed inside the screening, nor are they allowed inside the enclosed barbecue area on the Mulengracht.

Palin arrived in jeans and a button-down shirt with husband, Todd, in tow. She made her way through the hundreds of onlookers, signing autographs and shaking hands as she strolled down Franklin Street into the Opera House.

The event was thrown together in a short time. Pella Opera House Board member Elaine Sagers said the board learned of Palin's coming and the film's showing on Thursday.

Sagers says Palin and the film's director, Stephen K. Bannon, selected Pella to thank the Opera House and the community for their support. Tickets to the film were not sold, but given to local Republican Party supporters, known Palin supporters and other local leaders. Sagers said the goal was to make it a community event, and, as a board member, she is excited about the attention and publicity Palin's visit is bringing to Pella and the venue.

"I think Pella better think it's a great honor," says Pella resident and Marion County Republican Chair Irene Blom. She, too, is proud to have her community in the spotlight. Reporters from all over the world and every major cable news channel are in Pella for the event.

"We've got a town we should be proud of," Blom said.

As for the film itself, Bannon was approached by former Gov. Sarah Palin's Political Action Committee to make a series of shorts about her. He was approached following the success of another film he had made, "Fire from the Heartland," which focused on Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann and the Tea Party movement.

Bannon explained to the PAC that he is a feature filmmaker. He asked for creative control, which was granted. Approximately eight months later, he came back with a finished product.

"I've got a method to my madness," Bannon said.

"The Undefeated" is a film in three acts. The first chronicles Palin's life in Wasilla, Alaska. Palin served as mayor of Wasilla before being elected governor. The second act of the film focuses on her time as governor.

When the audience reaches the third act tonight, Bannon says it will understand who Palin is and how she rose to national political prominence. The third act begins with John McCain's announcement that Palin would be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election.

Bannon, with his partner, Glenn Bracken Evans, spent a great time speaking with people who did not support Palin. Bannon said he did not interview the former governor for this film at all, saying he spoke with her for "a total of one minute" during the film's production.

Instead, according to his assistant, Sonnie Johnson, the voice over audio from Palin in the film comes from an audio book of her best-seller Going Rogue. Johnson, a conservative, was proud to work on the film. She believes the conservative movement is taking hold of today's culture and it will continue to see success. Though conservatism is entering pop culture, Bannon says his documentary is straightforward.

"There's no fluff in this," Bannon said. He showed the director's cut of the film to Todd and Sarah Palin in Phoenix, shortly after completion. They gave it strong reviews. Other media outlets have followed suit.

Bannon addresses the mainstream media's treatment of Palin during the 2008 campaign. He believes part of Palin's success has been her rejection of the political class and her ability to relate to nearly every other part of the country. At the time Palin was selected as McCain's running mate, the Gallup Poll put her favorability rating at 88 percent. This is because so many Americans are "fed up" with elites, Bannon says.

"We have a compromised political class in bed with crony capitalism," Bannon said. "The elites haven't done such a great job."

The visitors to Pella remarked at what a nice community it is. Johnson said you can expect her back in town in the future.

"I love this town," Johnson said. "This is so beautiful."

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