THE DEFINITIVE PROFILES IN CHARACTER OF THE MEN COMPETING FOR THE PRESIDENCY
FRONTLINE presents The Choice 2012
As the candidates spend hundreds of millions of dollars to tell their own stories, FRONTLINE’s top political reporting team spent the last year gathering the rest of the story. More than 100 in-depth interviews with friends, family, authors and journalists contribute to the most ambitious television biographies of the candidates ever created.
To get the whole story, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk and his award-winning team take a fresh, contemporary look at the candidates’ lives and their political histories. “We’re trying to get to the core of these men—their life’s method—creating a richer view of them both personally and professionally,” says Kirk.
The Choice 2012 intimately follows the odyssey of young Barry Obama from near-poverty in Indonesia to his marijuana-smoking “Choom Gang” days in Hawaii, then to college in California and New York, where he moved inexorably toward finding a home in Chicago’s black community.
Consumed by youthful angst, Obama’s own journals and letters reveal a confused young man on an identity quest. By the end of his journey, Barry becomes Barack, and a political method is born.
“He comes from a multicultural background. He has a black father and a white mother and the experiences of Indonesia and Pakistan and California, New York, all of that,” says Obama’s college friend Phil Boerner. “At that time that I knew him, he was trying to say let’s unite around what we share, not what’s different about us.”
Mitt Romney grew up in an entirely different milieu, in a childhood defined by stability. The son of a powerful automobile executive and moderate Republican governor, young Mitt lived a privileged life of private schools and carefully guarded ideas.
A Mormon, Romney spent more than two years as a missionary in France, fulfilling his obligation to the church while trying to complete the Sisyphean task of making abstinence from alcohol palatable in Bordeaux, of all places. While Mitt didn’t make many converts on his mission, friends and family say that after almost dying in an automobile accident, he was reborn as a more serious man with a strong faith and a belief in his own life’s purpose.
“He made a commitment to himself to work hard,” says his brother, Scott Romney. “And I think part of that comes from that experience of going overseas and seeing other people, and having life-threatening experiences and deciding what you’re going to make out of your life. ”
Despite his success in business, Romney believed his destiny was in politics. He would eventually sell himself and his evolving political identity to voters. Lengthy interviews with family, close friends, colleagues and political associates reveal a fuller picture of the real Mitt Romney.
“It sort of mirrored what his dad had done. His dad had become a successful executive in American business and then served in public service as governor. So there was definitely a parallel there,” Romney’s political adviser Charley Manning tells FRONTLINE.
The Choice 2012 also probes the divergent leadership styles of Obama and Romney, focusing on the signature achievement of both men: health care reform. FRONTLINE investigates their approaches to this hot-button issue and what those approaches tell us about how they govern. The film also explores how, while in office, both men were confronted with a reluctant legislature dominated by political opponents. How they each handled that situation reveals much about their distinct political styles.
“Every four years, we always hear from politicians that this is one of the most important elections in our lifetime. In 2012, it really is,” says The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza.
Dozens of interviews, hundreds of hours of historical footage, and the complete archives of both candidates contribute to FRONTLINE’S meticulous reporting during this eye-opening, provocative two-hour documentary. The film is produced by the investigative team that delivered two hours of the epic economy miniseries Money, Power and Wall Street (2012), The Anthrax Files (2011), Top Secret America (2011) and Death by Fire (2010), as well as The Choice 2008 and The Choice 2000.
FRONTLINE’s digital team is also producing several exciting companion pieces to The Choice 2012, including “Artifacts of Character,” an unprecedented collection of rare materials from the candidates’ lives—documents, pictures, letters—that help to illuminate their personal journeys. These artifacts will be released two times per week, beginning in September, leading up to the film’s premiere.
Additionally, in collaboration with Duke University’s Rutherfurd Living History Program, FRONTLINE is launching an expansive oral history of the candidates’ lives, drawing on scores of interviews with those who know the men best. The collection includes full-length video interviews and interactive transcripts, creating an unrivaled election resource.
The Choice 2012 is produced by Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, Gabrielle Tenenbaum and Mike Wiser. The deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
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