Work on "Mitt" began before Whiteley received approval from Romney to make the film, the director said. Whiteley had been communicating with Romney's son Tagg Romney, who relayed a "no" from his father, but the director decided to go out on a limb after finding out about the family meeting in Park City.
"Christmas Eve, I just showed up with a camera. I was allowed in, and I filmed what amounted to be the opening scene of my movie, and I just didn’t stop filming for the next six years," Whiteley said.
Whiteley's first film, "New York Doll," screened at Sundance in 2005, and he said he's thrilled to be back at the festival.
"Sundance is the premier film festival in the world for documentary films," he said. "For somebody like me, that’s Carnegie Hall."
The festival has proven to be a reliable predictor of critical success in its documentary categories. Last year's winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary, "Searching For Sugarman," was the opening night film of the 2012 festival, and four of this year's five nominees for best documentary premiered in Park City last year.
"We have a hunch about what films are going to have an impact," festival programmer Kim Yutani said.
Unlike most films at the festival, which compete for the attention of distributors and then spend months waiting to be screened for general audiences, "Mitt" will be available to stream through Netflix beginning Jan. 24, before the festival concludes.
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