Talkshow icon's documentary sparks interest
One of the most buzzed-about docs in Gotham film and television circles comes from an unlikely source: Phil Donahue.The talkshow icon has been entertaining a stream of acquisitions execs from specialty labels and broadcast and cable nets who’ve come one by one to his Upper East Side penthouse for private screenings. The film he’s eager to show them — very eager, said several execs who’ve made the trip — is “Body of War,” an unashamedly partisan film arguing the folly of the Iraq campaign. Donahue financed the movie out of his own pocket and co-directed it with Texas filmmaker Ellen Spiro. Donahue has also met in L.A. with West Coast execs. Movie depicts one wounded soldier’s attempt to readjust to life in the U.S. as a handicapped veteran and paints an incriminating portrait of Democratic politicians such as Hillary Clinton, whom it shows not only approving the war but repeating White House talking points. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) is depicted as the lone exception. Donahue himself does not appear in the movie. Pic features the music of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who penned and performed several songs for the film. The movie has been accepted into a large fall festival, likely either Venice or Toronto, according to sources. Several execs who watched the film said they envision a possible small theatrical run but mainly a television window. However, the Film Sales Co.’s Andrew Herwitz,the sales agent repping “Body of War,” said he and Donahue are aiming for a wider theatrical run. Herwitz, who acknowledges the duo have taken “a rather unorthodox route” in selling the film, is essentially hoping that the pic’s star power can lift it above other recent entries in the cate-gory. “When I heard about this, I thought, Oh, another movie about Iraq. I don’t think anyone’s interested anymore,” he said. “But the film is incredibly emotional, and the reason I think audiences will rally to see it is because there are so many recognizable faces attached.” Movies and television shows about the ongoing war, such as James Longley’s Oscar-nommed doc “Iraq in Fragments” and Stephen Bochco’s FX show “Over There,” have generally gar-nered strong reviews but failed to land an audience. Donahue left the airwaves in 2003 after MSNBC canceled his primetime show — possibly, a memo later showed, because the net thought he was too overtly opposed to the war. He has since turned into a crusader of sorts, speaking out against the war in a number of platforms.