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Posted on Thursday 1/11/2012 November, 2012 by Francesca Rudkin

Throughout November Rialto Channel brings you Headliners, a collection of award winning biographies, in association with George FM.

Throughout November Rialto Channel brings you Headliners, a collection of award-winning biographies, in association with George FM.

Screening every Thursday at 8.30pm, it’s an opportunity to learn about the man behind Elmo the puppet, and meet the man who inspired the film The Horse Whisperer. You’ll also get a better understanding of why many consider Sarah Palin terrifying, and hear why a former beauty queen abducted a Mormon Missionary for a three-day sex marathon. You’ll also develop a new appreciation for Vidal Sassoon, the man all women have to thank for liberating them from the tyranny of the hair salon in the 1960s. 

All these documentaries are New Zealand television premieres and made by well-known and award-winning filmmakers, so it would be fair to say that this eclectic mix of subjects should set you up with enough conversation starters for Summer functions.

The series begins with Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (Thursday 1st November, 8.30pm). This film is made by veteran English documentary makers Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill, whose work includes documentaries such as Lily Tomlin, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, Ghosts and Soldier Girls.

Sarah Palin: You Betcha! screened in Official Selection at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, and is 100% unauthorised - but not for want of trying to get to Palin. Broomfield and Churchill make an effort to get to know the real Sarah Palin by heading to Wasilla, Alaska to meet and interview her and her family and friends. It isn’t long before their attempt to talk to “Palin’s team” is shut down, and they instead interview those who have been cast aside by the Palin machine over the years.

Turns out there’s a lot of them. Broomfield, who like Michael Moore likes to place himself within the story, does a very good job of pulling together all the previously reported scandals and rumours and his interviews to present a comprehensive and rather terrifying portrayal of this self-made politician.

In a back handed kind of way, Sarah Palin: You Betcha! tells the story of the ultimate American dream and the belief you can achieve whatever you put your mind to. In Palin’s case, I think we’d all breath easier if that dream didn’t involve being the leader of the free world.

Also featuring in Headliners are:

Buck (Thursday 8th November, 8.30pm).

This gentle tale about quiet American hero Buck Brannaman scooped the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival last year. Brannaman was the inspiration behind author Nicholas Evans’ novel The Horse Whisperer, made into a film by Robert Redford. Brannaman worked as an advisor on the film, which makes for a few amusing anecdotes, but the real story is Brannaman’s own life story, which takes him from a tragic and abusive childhood to being a remarkable horse trainer. This is a feel good, uplifting tale that should appeal to more than just pony club members.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (Thursday 15th November, 8.30pm)

Another Sundance Award winner, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey picked up the Special Jury Prize in 2011. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey is another tale about an unsung, talented, and nice guy who went from modest beginnings to being the man behind one of the world’s most adored Muppet characters. He’ll no doubt be hitting the streets of Washington this Sunday in the Million Muppet March, protesting against Romney’s proposed cuts to public broadcast funding.

But seriously, Kevin Clash is one of the driving forces behind Sesame St today, and this inspirational tale is a reminder of what you can achieve if you’re passionate about what you do. The behind-the-scenes footage is great fun too – for kids of all ages!

Tabloid (Thursday 22nd November, 8.30pm)

A documentary by Errol Morris is never to be missed; The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History in Time and The Fog of War are just a few of his acclaimed documentaries. In Tabloid he doesn’t delve into the current, turbulent world of tabloid papers, cellphone hacking and political intervention; instead he takes us back to the 70s and revisits the case of the “Manacled Mormon”. This involved American woman Joyce McKinney who kidnapped and imprisoned a Mormon Missionary Kirk Anderson for three days of kinky sex. It’s an extraordinary tale, told beautifully by Morris and his rather theatrical talent.

Vidal Sassoon: The Movie (Thursday 29th November, 8.30pm)

Every woman knows the name Vidal Sassoon, even if you don’t use his products. Vidal Sassoon was the man behind the revolutionary ‘wash and wear’ philosophy, and saved our mothers and grandmothers from having to go to the saloon to maintain their fashionable haircuts. This documentary, written and directed by Craig Teper, takes us behind the haircuts to tell the story of this Jewish orphan who went on to make his mark on popular culture.

It's a good month.  Enjoy.

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