|10-28-2012, 11:44 AM||Topic Starter|
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SEAL Team Six Movie? Airing two days before the election, now starring Obama.
On National Geographic.
You've got to be kidding me.
Editing Bolsters Obama’s Role in SEALs Film
Obama Is Prominent in ‘SEAL Team Six,’ Weinstein Film
By MICHAEL CIEPLY and BRIAN STELTER
Published: October 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES — Thanks to the magic of editing, President Obama will have a starring role in a television drama about one of his biggest accomplishments — the killing of Osama bin Laden — that will be shown just two nights before the presidential election.
But the star turn is virtually certain to bolster claims that the approximately 90-minute film amounts to a political stunt. Set for a prime-time debut on Nov. 4 on the National Geographic Channel, and a release the next day on Netflix, the film — “SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden” — is being backed by Harvey Weinstein, a longtime Democratic contributor and one of the Obama campaign’s most vigorous backers. Mr. Weinstein bought the rights to the film for about $2.5 million at the Cannes festival in May.
It tells the story of the hunt by intelligence operatives and Navy commandos for Bin Laden, who was killed on May 2, 2011, in Pakistan.
But promotional materials and a copy of the movie provided to The New York Times this week also show that the film has been recut, using news and documentary footage to strengthen Mr. Obama’s role and provide a window into decision-making in the White House.
In a joint interview on Tuesday Mr. Weinstein; the film’s director, John Stockwell; and others said the changes to the film were not politically motivated but were meant to give the film a stronger sense of realism. Some of the Obama moments were added at the suggestion of Mr. Weinstein, they said, using material gathered by Meghan O’Hara, a producer who worked closely with the documentarian Michael Moore on politically charged projects like “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Sicko.”
But Mr. Stockwell said he had included Mr. Obama as a character in his film from the beginning, and had actually shrunk his screen time somewhat. And Howard T. Owens, the president of the National Geographic Channel, who joined the call, said his company had insisted on removing a scene that showed Mitt Romney appearing to oppose the raid.
“We wouldn’t air this if it were propaganda,” he said.
The scenes featuring Mr. Obama include an opening with him at the annual White House correspondents’ dinner just a day before the raid (which was added by Ms. O’Hara); another that catches him on a long, lonely walk as he presumably deliberates his weighty decision; and — without getting too deeply into spoilers — another that finds him declaring at the end, “Justice has been done.”
Mr. Obama and his camp offered no input in the making or timing of the film, Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Owens said. Mr. Weinstein added that he had supported Republican candidates like George E. Pataki, the former New York governor, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York.
Representatives of the Obama campaign did not immediately respond to queries about the movie.
In an essay that was part of the film’s press kit, “Can a Movie Swing an Election?,” which was posted online last Wednesday at politicsdaily.com, Mr. Stockwell acknowledged that some people were suspicious of the film’s intentions, but he insisted that its origins were not political. Instead, he said, he had been struck, in fact, by “what a terrible ‘political’ decision” Mr. Obama made in authorizing the mission.
In the same piece, however, Mr. Stockwell, whose directing credits include the horror film “Turistas” and the surf drama “Blue Crush,” said that Mr. Weinstein, after buying the movie, “came into the edit room” and suggested a revision that “gave the movie context and helped root it in reality.”
For the National Geographic Channel, whose majority owner is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the film is a marketing opportunity — a reason for people who would otherwise never look for the channel on their cable lineup to seek it. The channel is available in 85 million homes in the United States, but it is relatively low rated, ranking 37th among cable channels in prime time.
Mr. Owens, of National Geographic, said recently that the pre-election premiere date was selected “to take advantage of our fall schedule” of shows, which will have their premieres in the days and weeks after “SEAL Team Six.” “Other than being commercially opportunistic, we weren’t considering the election,” Mr. Owens said.
Asked if he thought the timing of the election would benefit the film, he said, “I think we will benefit by being first to the market,” by beating the bigger-budget feature “Zero Dark Thirty.”
For months Mr. Weinstein’s film has been stuck in the shadow of that film about the Bin Laden raid, which was made by the director Kathryn Bigelow and the writer-producer Mark Boal, who teamed up on the Oscar-winning best picture “The Hurt Locker.”
The Boal-Bigelow project is set for theatrical release by Sony Pictures Entertainment on Dec. 19, at the height of the awards season. But that film, too, has repeatedly been snared in questions about its political intent.
Originally scheduled to open before the election, it was delayed until December after some suggested it would be used to help Mr. Obama’s prospects by dramatizing one of his signature achievements.
Congressional overseers suggested that administration officials overstepped in providing access to information about the Bin Laden raid, and the close cooperation between officials and the filmmakers was chronicled after the watchdog group Judicial Watch used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents related to the film.
In press materials Mr. Stockwell has said that his sources were “ex-Navy SEALS and sources within the intelligence community” who spoke to him and the film’s writer, Kendall Lampkin.
Beyond the political issues, the film may carry the risk of associating Mr. Obama with any backlash in a Muslim world already inflamed by the YouTube trailer for an insulting film portrayal of its prophet. In September riots erupted in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere as Muslim crowds reacted violently to what they perceived as the unforgivable insults of a scratch production, “The Innocence of Muslims,” some of which was posted on YouTube.
Nothing in “SEAL Team Six” recalls the anti-Muslim tones of that film. But the new film’s portrayals of the jeopardy to Muslim children during the assault on Bin Laden’s compound, and its graphic references to — but not portrayals of — torture in the war on terror may step toward the risk zone.
National Geographic has yet to market the film aggressively, but that will change next week when it starts running ads in print and on other networks. While “SEAL Team Six” will not be seen in theaters, National Geographic and Mr. Weinstein have scheduled splashy movie theater premieres in Washington and New York and regional screenings in Chicago and Philadelphia.