Filmmaker Projects A Winner
Filmmaker George Butler doesn't pretend to be neutral on the subject of his latest documentary: "I thought John Kerry would be president the moment I met him." That was 40 years ago in Massachusetts, and they've been friends ever since.
So, the senator's gonna win?
"I've got better things to do than make films about losing candidates," Butler told us Thursday evening before screening a clip of his untitled work-in-progress at the Silverdocs film festival in Silver Spring. Since 2002 he has shot 80 hours of footage, will get more at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, and hopes to put the movie on the festival circuit in September.
The clip we saw focused on Kerry's anti-war activism after his service in Vietnam, presenting him as a reasoned voice amid wild-eyed radicalism, and drawing heavily on some of the 6,000 still photos Butler has taken during his long association with Kerry. Won't it just play like a long campaign ad for the presumed Democratic nominee?
"I'm going to try to make the very best movie I can and make it as balanced as possible," Butler told the audience in a session moderated by ABC News political director Mark Halperin. "I really think there's a great story to be told about John Kerry and I'm undertaking the job right now."
The Kerry film was to be called "Tour of Duty," but complications arose because of Douglas Brinkley's book of the same name. At the screening, Butler carried a folder with the words "Going Up River" scrawled on it. "That's not so bad," he said.
Butler's body of work includes a 1977 documentary, "Pumping Iron," which immortalized muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I met Arnold in 1972," he pointed out. "And I really talked about Arnold being governor as early as 1972. I knew that's the kind of thing he wanted to do."
Butler, who has also photographed the Austrian for decades, detects in both men an iron will to make it to the top: "Barring death or destruction, they'd get there," he said. Also, as politicians, both have been "wildly underestimated."
He doesn't rule out The Governator someday running for president, never mind the constitutional prohibition against a foreign-born person holding the office. Nothing's too tough for Arnold: "Trust me," the filmmaker said with a smile.
'Bring It On': A Right-Wing Nod for Moore
* "Fahrenheit 9/11": Liberals love it and conservatives wish the film didn't exist -- except for one right-winger who happens to run the Fox News Channel.
Harvey Weinstein, the Democrat-loving Miramax honcho and executive producer of Michael Moore's incendiary documentary, was on AMC's "Shoot Out" last Sunday talking about who, in his view, was the biggest media supporter of the film. "The unlikeliest of allies happened -- Roger Ailes at Fox," Weinstein told co-host Peter Bart. "I mean when he sees this movie -- I don't want to be responsible for a cardiac bill -- but on a First Amendment issue, it blew his mind. So the best coverage we had wasn't ABC, CBS or NBC -- even Michael Moore couldn't believe it -- there's Fox News. A movie in [Ailes's] mind that couldn't be distributed or had to fight for distribution, just was un-American. He'd rather say, 'Bring it on, we'll deal with that, but you have a right to show it.' "
A Fox News spokesman confirmed Friday that Weinstein's quotes accurately represented Ailes's thinking.
For Local Shelters, Manna Indirectly From Heaven
* Trickle-down economics or divine intervention? Thanks to wet weather, hundreds of impoverished and homeless District residents got to feast last week on White House leftovers.
More than 1,000 lawmakers, family members and staffers chowed down on ribs, catfish and smoked turkey at the congressional picnic Tuesday on the South Lawn, but rain swept in and dampened turnout. Chefs stopped cooking, allowing the unprepared food to be donated to D.C. Central Kitchen. It received 200 pounds of frozen catfish, 30 gallons of buttermilk and 200 cases of tortilla chips.
On Friday and Saturday, the fish became main courses for meals at La Casa in Columbia Heights and Blair House, another shelter near North Capitol Street. D.C. Central Kitchen tells us it retrieves about a ton and a half of unused food daily from restaurants and caterers, prepares it into 4,000 meals and sends them free to 133 agencies that help kids, seniors, battered women and the homeless.
* Air Force Gen. Richard Myers is not only chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but he has beaten out every dad in the country by capturing the "Father of the Year" title given by the National Father's Day Council. (For you young whippersnappers out there, said committee was established in the 1930s.) A 62-year-old father of three and grandfather to two, Myers accepted the honor in New York last week.
* Speaking of dad's day: Hollywood actress and screenwriter Arleen Sorkin (no relation to Aaron Sorkin) gave her 85-year-old father an early present by helping him achieve what he's always wanted: a co-producer title. Retired Washington dentist Irving Sorkin has attempted to sell hundreds of movie ideas for decades, but finally found success when Arleen pitched one of his treatments to an interested producer. It was based on Katie McCabe's Washingtonian magazine article about African American medical innovator Vivien Thomas and became the HBO movie "Something the Lord Made," airing this month and starring Alan Rickman, Mos Def and Kyra Sedgwick. Said Sorkin's proud daughter: "He's a character. There's nobody like him."
With Anne Schroeder