CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa | “Caucus,” the movie, won’t premiere in Iowa, but A.J. Schnack will toast the documentary’s national debut with an iconic taste of the first-in-the-nation state.
“I will toast IA with the @TempletonRye I brought to DC,” Schnack posted on Twitter. “If only we could find some @IACraftBeerTent.”
Iowans will have to wait indefinitely to join Schnack in toasting the documentary that follows the Republican contest in the 2012 precinct caucuses. “Caucus” makes its U.S. premiere Saturday night at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., but no date has been set for an Iowa debut.
Schnack, who “fell in love” with the caucuses while covering the 1988 contests for the University of Missouri student newspaper, promises to screen the film in Iowa once he gets past the premiere and, he hopes, secures a distribution deal.
“We’ll certainly do something really fun and, hopefully, in a lot of different parts of Iowa because we certainly went all over the state and made lots of friends,” he said Friday afternoon.
“Caucus” is described as an “intimate, funny and sometimes emotional” depiction of the 2011-12 campaign in Iowa as eight Republicans fight to become their party’s standard-bearer and take on Barack Obama.
“But to win, each must first navigate state fairs, town hall meetings in pizza halls and agitated questions from the increasingly contentious GOP base,” according to the film’s website, caucusfilm.com.
Schnack thinks Iowans, whether or not they followed and participated in the caucuses, will enjoy the film.
“It’s certainly a different view than what people saw on their TVs,” Schnack said. “The ability you have when making long-form documentary is that you can stay with moments longer and give them a different kind of context.”
So Schnack doesn’t think the documentary’s appeal is limited to history buffs and political junkies.
“It was a really historic time in politics and certainly in Iowa,” Schnack said. “It’s a fun and exciting time to relive, whether you were there or not.”
Schnack was in Iowa from April 2011 to January 2012 to follow the GOP candidates, paying more attention to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Iowa native Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
“We didn’t know what the story line would be,” he said. “We just committed to going where everyone was and following everybody and hoping that at the end it would be compelling.”
Following Bachmann and Santorum was serendipitous, he said, because they turned out to be such a study in contrasts as the campaign went on. Santorum squeaked out an eight-vote victory and Bachman plummeted from the height of an Iowa Straw Poll victory to a sixth-place finish in the caucuses with less than 5 percent of the votes cast.
Although he’s a “big fan” of the caucuses, Schnack isn’t sure there will be a sequel.
“It is an exciting part of the political process. It might be my favorite part of the political process,” said Schnack, who has made four other nonfiction films, including "Kurt Cobain: About a Son."
“It would be great to figure out a way to do it again, but I’m always hesitant because we had such an amazing cast of characters that I don’t know if we’ll ever have it that good again.”