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Most documentaries don’t start the way they finish. But two Magnolia Oscar contenders, “RBG” (CNN Films) and “Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes” (A&E Indie Film), adapted as the world moved around them. Both films took advantage of new perspectives with the Trump presidency and the surging #MeToo movement.
South African documentarian Alexis Bloom (“Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds”) initially began to research, for Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Prods., a dynasty story on the Murdoch family. But she soon realized that Fox News czar Roger Ailes, who started out as a presidential campaign guru to then-candidates Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump — was the more-interesting story. Arguably, Ailes not only permanently altered the media landscape but coarsened our national political discourse. And then, in 2016 he was brought down at Fox News by a series of sexual-harassment accusations.
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When Bloom began, Ailes was still running Fox News and access was a challenge. “It was an enormous problem to get Fox footage,” said Bloom. “It was a hermetically sealed world. The Defense Department was more available. Fox had corporate layers and bodyguards and lawyers. Nothing comes in and out of Fox without them saying it can.”
It was hard to get people to talk. “There was no motivation for people to come forward,” said Bloom. On May 18, 2017, when Ailes suddenly died, Bloom thought her movie was dead, too. Now she would never interview her elusive quarry. “We need to nail someone!” she thought.
Divide - Conquer - Roger - Ailes - Story
“Divide and Conquer: The Roger Ailes Story”
But with Ailes gone, things opened up, with a boost from the #MeToo movement. (The filmmakers added footage of Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose; Ailes jokes with him about political influence and womanizing in journalism.) Slowly, more people saw the benefit of talking about Ailes....
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