ThinkFilm to bow pic at Toronto fest, offer limited release

Documaker George Butler’s portrait of his longtime friend John Kerry will hit theaters in the heart of the presidential campaign.

ThinkFilm has acquired the doc, now titled “Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry,” and plans to preem it at the Toronto Film Festival next month and then begin a limited release Oct. 1.

Butler, who has been a close friend of Kerry’s for 35 years, paints a sympathetic portrait that focuses on the Democratic nominee’s naval service in the Vietnam War and his later antiwar activism.

Pic is loosely based on David Brinkley’s bestselling bio “Tour of Duty.”

“Going Upriver” is likely to be the second doc by Butler to gain attention because its primary subject is running for office. Butler directed the 1977 doc “Pumping Iron” about Arnold Schwarzenegger, which enjoyed new popularity during Schwarzenegger’s successful run for California governor in last year’s recall race.

As part of the “Going Upriver” deal, Palisade Pictures has committed $1 million to marketing the doc. But none of that money can be spent on TV or radio ads.

Federal campaign finance laws forbid any company buying broadcast blurbs that include the name or picture of the presidential candidates within 60 days of the election.

As political documentaries become more popular in this political season, the FEC is mulling the question of whether even the release of documentary films constitute “electioneering communications” or whether they qualify for the press exemption in the new campaign finance regulations put in place in 2002.

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