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Norton to shop Obama documentary

Actor, Class 5 Films ready campaign feature

Edward Norton and his Class 5 Films are prepping to shop a feature documentary about the historic presidential campaign mounted by Sen. Barack Obama.

Class 5 has engaged Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel and lawyer Andrew Hurwitz to make a distribution deal for a film the company is producing for release in 2009. Doc has financing in place from Good, Green Film Co. and Citi Prods.

Amy Rice and Alicia Sams are directing the as-yet-untitled pic. They began shooting footage before Obama’s declaration of candidacy to become the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nominee. Emanuel, who guided the sales of Sacha Baron Cohen’s pseudo-docs “Borat” and “Bruno,” and the Michael Moore docs “Sicko” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” has been an outspoken supporter of Obama. The brother of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) has organized meet-and-greets in Hollywood and hosted fund-raisers for Obama. Norton, a longtime Endeavor client, has also been a supporter, reportedly donating to Obama’s campaigns.

Norton said the motivation behind the film was not to glorify its subject. Its genesis came during a chat between Norton, his Class 5 partners Bill Migliore and Stuart Blumberg and the directors right after Obama raised his national profile with a memorable speech during the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

“We were all so struck by Barack’s speech and talked about how exciting it was to see someone from our generation, not our parents’, make his presence felt in such an inspiring way,” Norton told Daily Variety. “It was akin to the way I remembered my dad describing how he felt when Kennedy gave his inauguration speech.

“At the time, he was the new senator from Illinois. None of us had voted for him or contributed to his campaigns. None of us was saying, ‘I want to back this guy for president.’ It was more this generational experience, of seeing someone we felt represented us in a very unique and fresh way, and the desire to explore what would happen to the first person our age who staked a claim to national leadership.”

Doc’s production got under way before Obama began his presidential run in spring 2006. Norton and the directors approached Obama and he sparked to the film, first permitting Rice and Sams access on his 2006 trip to Africa. They’ve had cameras rolling since.

“Barack in particular just got it, what we were trying to do, and the trust factor we were able to build has been so helpful,” Norton said. “His success has all kinds of filmmakers hammering at his team for access, and most have been denied. We really feel like we’ve caught lightning in a bottle.

“But the film has to say something about politics in America, and just because you have access doesn’t mean you have insight, Norton added. “A lack of material won’t be our problem, there are hundreds of hours of tape already. We’ve got to do the work ”

Norton said the filmmakers will follow Obama through the duration of his White House run, so it’s difficult to set a timetable or budget tag at this point.

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