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Documentary Highlights Karger's 2012 Presidential Campaign

"Fred" is screening around New Hampshire this week, offering the trials and tribulations of the first openly gay major party presidential candidate.

Fred Karger, left, and John Fitzgerald Keitel, talk about Keitel's documentary, "Fred," about Karger's 2012 presidential campaign. Credit: Tony Schinella
Fred Karger, left, and John Fitzgerald Keitel, talk about Keitel's documentary, "Fred," about Karger's 2012 presidential campaign. Credit: Tony Schinella

While not exactly a political campaign, former 2012 Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger is wading into politics again, this time, with a tour of New Hampshireoffering free showings of the documentary film “Fred,” a one-hour glimpse at his historic 2012 presidential campaign.

The film, by John Fitzgerald Keitel, an editor, writer, and cinematographer who has specialized in a number of documentary shorts, works on HBO, and also feature length films, is accompanying him, with both candidate and filmmaker answering questions after the showings.

The film traces a bit of Karger’s life before his two-plus-year unsuccessful attempt to win the Republican presidential nomination. 

The documentary begins with Karger’s fight to save a noted gay hot spot in Laguna Beach, CA, from demolition and development, and later, his activities during the Proposition 8 same-sex marriage fight. Sprinkled in between, some of his friends and family talk about his efforts and later, the presidential campaign, including some who were quite cautious about trusting an out gay man who previously worked for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Like most political documentaries, “Fred” follows the trial and tribulations of the effort, including Karger’s visits to standard-bearer Republican dog-and-pony shows, like the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and CPAC early on in the process. It highlights his first visits to Iowa and later, New Hampshire, including his meetings with gay-straight alliances at high schools and college campuses, and door-knocking and shaking hands in the state before the 2012 First-in-the-Nation Primary.

At the Centennial Inn in Concord on April 8, college students, previous Karger supporters, and a couple of politicos, watched the film and commended both Karger and Keitel for their efforts. Karger said they brought the film to New Hampshire first since it was a highlight of his effort. He wanted to have a showing at the Centennial since he had spent time at the inn during the campaign and liked its cozy rooms and excellent restaurant. The inn is featured in a short segment of the film, as Karger visits the room that Hillary and Bill Clinton stayed in during the 2008 primary race, as well as footage of Karger and staffers working on his effort.

During a question and answer period after the showing, Keitel said putting the film together was “an accumulation process over time” of gathering scenes from the race. He said the most difficult part of creating the documentary was trying to get to key events in the race from thousands of miles away.

“What inspires me about the film and Fred,” he said, “is how he sort of challenges conventional wisdom. And that’s why I got involved. And I think what surprised me when it came time to put it all together was that there was a real tenacity to that original inspiration that came through the footage … that’s actually kind of what I got and I was able to craft into an hour long piece.”

While watching the film, Karger was often seen beaming clearly proud of what Keitel was able to accomplish with the footage. He said he knew nothing about filmmaking but thought it was going to be important in the future.

“I thought he did a magnificent job,” he said.

In looking back at the race, Karger said he wished he had rented a camper earlier on in the process, as he had done in later states, in order to be more visible. He also said he was glad when the campaign was over but quickly missed the process.

“It’s an interesting exercise,” he said. “I hope I impacted a lot of lives.”

Karger and Keitel will be traveling around the country to share the film and are working on trying to get wider distribution and entering it into festivals.

Keitel is also working on a new project tracking the lives of seven same-sex marriage couples across a decade. The film is tentatively titled “Justly Married.” All but one of the couples is still married, he noted.

Despite a bit of prodding about running again, Karger told some of the attendees that he didn’t think he would, noting that it was “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Future showings of “Fred” include:

  • 6 p.m. on April 9, at Pizza and Politics at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester.
  • 1 p.m. on April 10, a screening at Concord High School in the Christa McAuliffe Auditorium.
  • 6 p.m. on April 10, at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy at Dartmouth College, 6082 Rockefeller Hall.
  • 10 a.m. on April 12, at the MONiff Film Festival in the Putname Theater at Keene State College, 229 Main St. in Keene.

For more information, visithttps://www.facebook.com/FredKarger.

Roger E. Butow April 10, 2014 at 09:54 AM
I wrote a piece for LB Patch 2 years ago (March 27, 2012): Fred Karger, One Note Johnny....and my opinion hasn't changed. It's all about Fred, this is just another attempt to gather more attention (and probably $$$) for himself. Then again, self-absorption is the hallmark of a politician, so he might lower his sights a tad and run for our already corrupt, self-centered City Council, he'd fit right in. Let's face it, he's a freak of nature, created his own niche cottage industry, not for being gay but for being a gay Republican. And that's basically his campaign, his entire schtick is being an odd duck. Living in a renowned gay and gay sensitive community like Laguna, I can honestly say that he's actually (no pun intended) the butt of local jokes. Losers make movies and write books about themselves. Isn't America great? http://lagunabeach.patch.com/groups/roger-e-btows-blog/p/bp--roger-butow-on-fred-karger-a-gay-republican-is-sta5d42b0d0e

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