Sarah Palin: You Betcha! is Nick Broomfield’s attempt to, as he puts it, “find out about the real Sarah from the people who know her best.” Broomfield, perhaps Britain’s most committed raker of American cultural muck, has long appeared on camera in his documentaries as both investigator and soundman, burnishing an identity as a faux-naive outsider. But his foreign credentials and deceptively lo-fi production methods mask the cunning (and sometimes contempt) behind his “benign” curiosity. In addition to cementing his doc-star bona fides, his hits—Kurt and Courtney (1998) and Biggie and Tupac (2002)—also successfully sold the illusion of transparency. By structuring his films as road-trip hunts for slippery subjects, Broomfield manages to cast his own, often highly entertaining manipulations as honesty while spinning any subject’s reluctance to submit to his interrogations as de facto admission of guilt. You Betcha!, Broomfield’s first documentary feature in five years, follows the same MO with diminishing returns. The hunt this time amounts to grievance-airing from a number of disgruntled former friends and colleagues, who mostly trot out grudges related to scandals so old (Troopergate, Palin’s lack of preparation on the McCain campaign) that even valid-seeming complaints play as unseemly for their staleness. It’s structured as a journey toward an interview with Sarah herself, which, of course, never happens, a failure that Broomfield, as usual, tries to sell as a kind of success. But for all the legitimate reasons to jeer Palin, should her rightful wariness of Broomfield’s camera be one of them?
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