Pulitzer winner sells film rights about his life in U.S. to CNN
NEW YORK (AP) | A former White House aide to Bill Clinton has spent the past few years writing a trilogy about the life of another president — Abraham Lincoln.
Sidney Blumenthal has a deal with Simon & Schuster, the publisher announced Tuesday. The three-volume biography has the working title “Abraham Lincoln: A Political Life.” The first book, “A Self-Made Man,” is scheduled to come out in 2015. Mr. Blumenthal will be edited by Alice Mayhew, whose other projects have included Doris Kearns Goodwin’s million-selling Lincoln book “Team of Rivals.”
“I was privileged to work in the White House,” Mr. Blumenthal said in a statement released by Simon & Schuster. “I have admired and studied President Lincoln for many years. My personal experience with the politics of the presidency inside the White House gave me a fresh appreciation and a new view of Lincoln’s immense political skills and a new way of looking at how he became America’s greatest political leader.”
During a recent telephone interview, Mr. Blumenthal said he had already completed all three volumes, each more than 500 pages, and had waited until he finished before seeking a publisher. Negotiations were handled by another man used to working with presidents, Washington attorney Robert Barnett, whose other clients include Mr. Clinton and President Obama.
Although Mr. Blumenthal wrote a cover story on Lincoln for Newsweek last year, he said he had kept his biography a secret from everybody except his “wife and dog.”
A former Washington Post journalist who later revealed he has been living in the country illegally since childhood has made a documentary about his experience and announced Tuesday that he is selling broadcast rights for the project to CNN Films.
Jose Antonio Vargas said the CNN unit is acquiring his film, “Documented,” to be broadcast nationally next spring. Mr. Vargas wrote and directed the film over the past two years.
In 2011, Mr. Vargas revealed in a New York Times essay that he has been living in the U.S. illegally since he was brought from the Philippines as a child to live with his grandparents. He grew up in California, where teachers and school administrators helped him gain college admission, a driver’s license and work. He later landed a job at the Washington Post, where he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.
Just before he revealed his immigration status, Mr. Vargas began filming. He said he wanted to capture everything he was about to go through. He also set out to tell stories of those brought to the country illegally as children who would benefit from a path to permanent residency under the stalled U.S. Dream Act.
“It is imperative that we remind people what is actually at stake and that we humanize as much as possible a highly political, highly partisan issue,” Mr. Vargas said. “A film to me has the potential to not only change policy but to change people’s minds and hearts.”
Mr. Vargas leads an advocacy group called Define American that is planning an immigration reform campaign around the time the film is released.
Producers are also planning to release the documentary in theaters. Mr. Vargas wants to show it in Texas and other places grappling with a broken immigration system. This week, the film debuts at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, though Mr. Vargas can’t attend because he can’t leave the country.
Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and first president of Facebook, is the film project’s lead funder and executive producer.
Amy Entelis, a senior vice president at CNN who oversees the film unit, said Mr. Vargas takes the immigration story out of the context of a political battle and instead “makes that story very pointedly human.” CNN won’t be advocating one side or the other in the immigration debate, she said.
In the film, Mr. Vargas retraces his migration from age 12, when his mother put him on a plane to California. He learned he didn’t have immigration papers when he was 16. For the film, Mr. Vargas sent a camera back to the Philippines to interview his mother, whom he hasn’t seen in 20 years.
In another scene, Mr. Vargas calls immigration officials to ask why he hasn’t been deported. He is told they cannot comment.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mr. Vargas went to a campaign event in Iowa for Mitt Romney, a scene included in the film. He held a sign that read: “I am an American w/o papers.” Others attending the event didn’t understand why Mr. Vargas could not gain legal status with all his accomplishments.
“Immigration is the most controversial yet least understood issue in America,” he said. “This film, I think, embraces the complexity of the issue.”