On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

National journalists found themselves stuck with the prospect of interviewing local farmers coming out Tuesday night’s premiere of the Sarah Palin movie in Pella, Iowa.

It seems the 111-year-old Pella Opera House sold out every seat to local folks — and no tickets were put aside for the national press, reports Paul Bond of the Hollywood Reporter.

“Reporters from around the country that have descended upon tiny Pella, Iowa for the premiere of the Sarah Palin documentary The Undefeated on Tuesday night are in for a rude awakening,” wrote Bond Tuesday afternoon. “So scarce are the tickets that there’s no room in the theater for journalists.

“The town, in fact, has been filling up rapidly since Palin confirmed she’d attend the premiere with her husband, Todd. Police notified residents that the streets around the venue, the would be shut down beginning 13 hours prior to show time. On Monday, organizers were still divvying up tickets to the massively oversubscribed event.”

Reporters – some who travelled more than 1,000 miles — were told “they didn’t make the cut,” reported Bond.

There are only 311 seats in the opera house, which is actually a community auditorium restored in the 1990s. Back in the 1800s, such community theaters were given lofty names — and Pella citizens will admit with a chuckle that almost no opera has ever been performed in their operea house.

Why was Pella chosen for the premiere? The town of 9,479 was founded in 1847 by Dutch immigrants seeking freedom to practice their Reformed Presbyterian faith, which was politically incorrect in the Netherlands at that time. Today the town retains its well-scrubbed Dutch image and is right in the middle of Iowa, home of the upcoming presidential caucuses. It is surrounded by farms and is home to Pella Industries, best known for quality folding doors and room dividers.

After the Iowa premiere, the film will play in AMC Theatres nationwide in Dallas, Denver, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Atlanta, Orange County, Phoenix, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City and several other cities beginning July 15.

It features political commentators Mark Levin, Tammy Bruce and Andrew Breitbart as well as conservative activists Kate Obenshein, Sonnie Johnson and Jamie Radtke. Additionally, the film includes interviews with Alaskan civil servants, elected officials and advisors who were involved in Alaskan politics during Governor Palin’s tenure.

“The Undefeatedis the ideal candidate for digital theatrical distribution,” said Jonathan Dern, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group, which is managing the release. “Given Palin’s ardent following throughout the country, digital cinema allows us to be extremely precise and efficient in our distribution strategy, bringing this much-anticipated film directly to interested theatre-goers.”

Directed by Steve Bannon,  it follows Palin’s time as Alaska governor, the vice presidential run, and her current political life.

Reviews have been predictable. Conservative commentators love it. Liberal outlets hate it.

The conservative magazine National Review called it a “hero’s journey.” 

The conservative Daily Caller praised it as a “game-changer.”

“Initial impressions from pre-release screenings have been on the low side,” wrote the liberal internet news site The Daily Beast.

“Its tone is an excruciating combination of bombast and whining,” wrote Kyle Smith, the New York Post‘s film critic. “It’s so outlandishly partisan that it makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln and its febrile rush of images — not excluding earthquakes, car wrecks, volcanic eruption and attacking Rottweilers — reminded me of the brainwash movie Alex is forced to sit through in A Clockwork Orange.Except no one came along to refresh my pupils with eyedrops.”

“If you like Sarah Palin, the movie will make you like her even more,” CBS News noted.

The self-labeled liberal MSNBC said the most striking part of the film is its attack on the Republican Party hierarchy.

“To hell to the establishment,”says conservative activist Andrew Breitbart near the end of the movie, who charges that the GOP didn’t defend Palin from the relentless attacks she has received. In an after-the-credits coda, Breitbart calls Republican bigwigs “eunuchs.”

But at the Tuesday night debut, the audience was guaranteed to be midwestern Iowans, Pella-area folks, many of whom have devoted their lives to growing corn and sorghum and raising pork.

They didn’t mind the idea that national reporters would have to wait outside to ask them how they liked the movie.

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