Fred, the documentary by John Fitzgerald Keitel about gay Republican politico Fred Karger’s historic run for the presidency in 2012, premiered to an appreciative packed audience at the Sundance Sunset Theater in Los Angeles last week. Karger rented the theater after the film had been rejected by Outfest, which a number of viewers were stunned to discover. Out and proud NBA player Jason Collins was among those who turned out for the screening.
Karger, a formidable senior consultant on the campaigns of such Republican politicos as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, says he came up with the idea of running for the GOP nomination for president during the Prop. 8 campaign. His goal was to get into a debate and challenge the party and voters to recognize him as an openly gay man with the credentials and ideas to better represent the GOP than someone like Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. A long shot from the beginning, given the rightward trend of the party, Karger nonetheless received considerable media attention in New Hampshire and Iowa—and nationally when a Washington Post reporter took him seriously and Mother Jones did a sizable feature focused on Karger versus Mitt and the Mormon Church. And such publications as US News and World Report profiled Karger and the documentary when it first came out last April.
As most people who followed the Prop. 8 story know, Karger was vexed by Romney and the Mormons, whose role in the hate-filled anti-gay Prop. 8 campaign Karger uncovered through his Californians Against Hate campaign (now Rights Equal Rights). He dedicated his effort to the memory of the young gay teens who had committed suicide the year before.
And youth were a major foucs - and a major political constituency. Karger won the Saint Anselm College Republican Straw Poll in Manchester, New Hampshire in early April 2011, beating Mitt Romney by five votes. That support broadened in July 2011, when he was tied with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a Zogby poll. By January 2012, Karger beat then-favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann in the New Hampshire primary by 138 votes!
Karger told a post-screening panel moderated by his cousin, Fandango's Dave Karger, that he asked Keitel if he wanted to “come along for the journey” and document the ups and downs of campaigning without adequate funding and name recognition, which itself produced the humorous slogan “Fred Who?”
And while Karger met the minimum criteria of GOP state parties to get into the debates, he was still not allowed to participate. Instead, the debates allowed audience members to boo as gay servicemember Stephen Hill asking a question about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" via YouTube while serving in Iraq. Rick Santorum stumbled a bit, didn't thank Hill for his service and said he'd repeal DADT. The film asks: what would have happened had Karger been in that debate?
But Fred does shows how Karger succeeded in his other main goal: “making it easier for LGBT youth to be who they are.” The film is replete with scenes and commentary from young people in near empty rooms inspired by Karger’s verve, vision and mission.
Indeed, featured in the film is James Duke Mason, grandson of famed actor James Mason and son of singer Belinda Carlisle, who recently filed papers to run for the West Hollywood City Council.
Also at the event, actor/therapist Chad Allen and Beau Johnson, also featured in the film.
Derrick Davis and Kevin Merrell, Mormons who lost their faith in the church during the Prop. 8 campaign, also featured in the film.
Former State Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield with his partner Eli Almanza.
And Richard Ayoub, editor in chief of RumorFix and Variety's Ted Johnson with Jason Collins.
Also there were two beloved, smart politicos who cross the aisle—former L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and longtime consultant Allan Hoffenblum.
Karger and Keitel are looking for a distributor for the documentary. Here's the trailer:
See more at: http://www.frontiersla.com/frontiers-blog/2014/07/23/fred-premiers-at-sundance-sunset-theatre-to-laughter-and-acclaim/page/1