MINNEAPOLIS—It would have taken quite a star to outshine Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention. Even John McCain may soon find out why actors hate working with children, cute animals and, now, female Alaskan governors.
But the Hollywood politicos who turned out for the GOP gathering in the Twin Cities quickly became admirers of the vice presidential nominee.
"She appeals to what we do," said Sloan, one of Hollywood's biggest GOP fundraisers. "She's fresh. She's fiery. She's the new star we're looking for."
Jon Voight, who was here to promote his new movie, "An American Carol," called Palin "absolutely amazing and wonderful."
"I was so deeply moved to see her," said the longtime Republican, who spent the week traveling between the convention hall and various receptions and lunches. Palin, Voight said, "believes in God and family. She's a doer and a reformer."
He said he hopes that more of his colleagues in Hollywood, most of them Democrats, come around to the McCain-Palin ticket.
"I have great respect for people in the entertainment community," he said. "But in terms of politics, they've been influenced by the political forces from the '60s, by Marxists. I understand how they are being programmed. They have to be awakened."
He hopes his family comes around too. He expects that daughter Angelina Jolie will go with Democrat Barack Obama. "I haven't talked to Angie about it. I would think she would be on the left, with Brad," he said, referring to Jolie's partner, Brad Pitt.
(Some people might argue that the Democrats in the entertainment industry have been awakened by the selection of Palin: They're even more determined in their support of Obama.)
Documentaries are a real surprise
One of the most successful innovations at both conventions this year is also one of the most unlikely: a film festival.
Jody Arlington, a public relations executive who has worked with the Sundance Institute, the AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival and other film-related events, came up with the idea with some colleagues last year. Why not create a festival where filmmakers could screen powerful documentaries exploring subjects that are foremost on the minds of activists, celebrities, candidates and party leaders?
"We feel very strongly that politics and art can impact each other," said Arlington, who is based in Washington. "We wanted to create a place where someone like [Democratic Rep.] Loretta Sanchez, who has been talking about water issues, could be in direct contact with a filmmaker who did a documentary about the global water supply."
The result was the Impact Film Festival 2008. "It was our inaugural event," said Arlington, who helped rally sponsorship from the Starz cable network, the Sundance Channel, MySpace and others.
And over the last two weeks at the Democratic and Republican conventions, more than 2,000 people attended the screenings and panel discussions. "It was the right mix of mayors, governors, senators, representatives, delegates, journalists, national leaders and activists," Arlington said.
The roster of films -- many of them portraits of people dealing with powerful challenges, including fighting lung cancer and overcoming the effects of Hurricane Katrina -- was impressive, and so were the guests. Stuart Townsend and Charlize Theron screened their film "Battle in Seattle" at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He also attended the film's screening at the GOP convention.
Members of the Kennedy family attended a screening of Charles Guggenheim's "Robert Kennedy Remembered" in Denver. Annette Bening attended the Democratic convention screening of "14 Women," a doc she narrated for filmmaker Mary Lambert, who followed Sens. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in Washington, on the campaign trail and into the kitchen.
At the Republican gathering, the most popular film was "Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story." The movie about the blues-playing GOP political strategist prompted a lively discussion among filmmaker Stefan Forbes and Republicans. The upshot: Attention-getting tactics will always have a home in politics. It's human nature.
Arlington hopes to keep the nonpartisan festival going, holding it annually in Washington around the week of the president's State of the Union address.