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'MITT': Filmmaker says Mitt Romney found documentary 'painful to watch'

  • Former MA Governor Mitt Romney FBN

    Reuters

  • Former MA Governor Mitt Romney

    Reuters

  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, shown here at the GOP convention in St. Paul in September, is seen as a top contender in the 2012 race. (Reuters Photo)

A film festival wouldn't be a film festival without a behind-the-scenes documentary based on the life of a leading Republican figure. Last year it was R.J Cutler's "The World According to Dick Cheney," and this year the buzz was all about the GOP's 2012 Presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney.

But in a somewhat uncharacteristic departure from the expected Hollywood fare, Greg Whiteley offers a fairly flattering look into the life of Romney in his simply titled "MITT" at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Although it wasn't the filmmaker's intention to make a film with any form of political persuasion.

"Audiences really get to see a certain vulnerability and weakness to Mitt. You look at someone like him who is wealthy, but being a part of human life you see his worries in those small moments," Whiteley told FOX411. "The film is apolitical. We take great pains to avoid trying to tell you that you should or should not like Mitt Romney or that you should vote for him. My job was to shut up and film."

Starting in late 2006, the film traces Romney and his large immediate family through his first decision to run in 2008, and again as the Republican candidate in 2012. Given unprecedented access, Whiteley travels alongside the campaign through interactions with potential voters, preparations for the debates, personal moments with his family, and concluding with final presidential election night results. 

Whiteley said initially Romney's staff fought the idea, but once he gained access to the family there were no restrictions on what he could do with them, and what would and would not end up on the cutting room floor.

Yet despite showing the former Governor of Massachusetts in a much more "human" way than the was often presented on his presidential run, Romney, who made a surprise appearance at the film's premiere in Utah on Saturday, noted with a smile that it "wasn't the film he would have made."

"He said it was painful to watch, but he was touched by seeing his family and how much they really supported him," Whiteley said.

The Netflix original documentary, which will stream on the digital service this Friday, January 24, is comprised of observational footage through numerous back room strategy meetings with the family, hotel rooms while Mitt snacks in preparation for the first presidential debate, and even while he irons his tuxedo shirt before going on stage to trade barbs with President Obama at the Al Smith Dinner.

In particular, "Mitt" showcases how Romney dealt with three of the biggest strikes against his name in the mainstream media: being rich, being Mormon and being a so-called "flip-flopper." And he does it all with a sense of humor, referring to his personal brand as "the Mormon flipper."

"I was impressed by his stamina through all the rigors of the campaign," the director continued. "You have to be made a (special) material to keep up on the campaign like that."

The film also documents the prayer routine the family engages in on a frequent basis through the two presidential aspirations, the raw emotion experienced by Ann, his sons and even the grand children, and his absolute conviction in 2012 that he could steer the nation to a better place.

Ultimately, "MITT" examines the modern presidential campaign process, the toll it takes on the entire family, the highs and the lows, and leaves the viewer with a stronger sense of Romney's family values and love for America. But perhaps the most intriguing moments were election night in 2012, watching the curtain fall.

"Over six years of filming you develop a great deal of empathy for your subject. And on the other hand, I was pinching myself that I was there in that room experiencing that moment," Whiteley added. "You see him write that concession speech in a matter of minutes before taking the stage... It begins and ends with Mitt, and I was impressed by that."

Follow @holliesmckay on Twitter.

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