TVNewser was at the screening last night for the new CNN Films presentation of “41 on 41,” which will air this Sunday, Father’s Day, on CNN.
The film features 41 people sharing intimate stories about the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, as a politician, a president, a father and a grandfather. In some cases — like that of Pierce Bush, one of 24 Bush grandchildren — the portrait is very intimate. (Listen closely for the story about what was found on Barbara Bush’s laptop).
“41 on 41” is executive produced by President Bush’s former White House speechwriter, Mary Kate Cary, and Rick Kaplan, the former president of CNN, and later MSNBC. “It’s good to have Rick back in the building,” said CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker in his introduction of the screening.
The film is backed by the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, but in the Q&A following the screening, Cary noted the Library “had no editorial control” of the documentary and only provided funding. “This was made as any other independent film would have been made,” said Cary. She said the “41” theme played throughout the 10-month film-making process, which included 45-minute sit-downs with the 41 participants. In all, the crew traveled 41,000 miles gathering the interviews.
Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw are featured back-to-back sharing stories of Pres. Bush’s military service. Cary says while it was a challenge to get the list down to just 41, there are a few people she wished could have made the film, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who couldn’t participate due to health reasons, and Tiger Yang, who was assigned to the Bushes during his role as U.S. Liaison to Beijing in 1974-75 and is now a high-ranking Chinese politician. Cary said it was a challenge to get the Chinese government to participate at all in the project.
As for the 41st president, he’s seen the film and enjoyed it. “He was very humbled,” said Cary. “In a Lou Gehrig way, he said, ‘I’m the luckiest guy in the world.'”