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Kerry Biopic Includes His Combat Film

Times Staff Writer

Campaign films depict an idealized image: the genial Ronald Reagan of “Morning in America,” the warm and emotionally accessible Bill Clinton in “The Man From Hope.”

On Thursday night, it was John Kerry’s turn. “A Remarkable Promise” -- a nine-minute documentary made with the help of director Steven Spielberg -- presented the Democratic Party’s view of its presidential nominee: a patriotic, courageous soldier and a warm husband and father.

The film highlights Kerry’s credentials as a Vietnam veteran and casts his later opposition to that war as an extension of his love for his country.

“That’s a huge piece of his life,” said Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

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“He volunteered. He enlisted for one of the most dangerous missions in the war. This addresses him signing up and serving in the war in Vietnam and then fighting to end the war at home so nobody else had to die for a mistake.”

Perhaps the film’s most effective scenes are those that employ combat footage shot by Kerry while skipper of a Swift boat in in Vietnam.

“I am alive today through the grace of a higher being,” Kerry says. “Every day is extra.”

A series of family photographs casts Kerry in an intimate, emotionally approachable light as an engaged father and husband.

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Filmmaker James Moll, 41, a USC graduate who won an Academy Award for “The Last Days,” a 1998 documentary about five Hungarian Holocaust survivors, said Spielberg suggested him for the assignment. He got the call just before the Fourth of July weekend, and immediately joined Kerry for a tour with his fellow veterans.

“I was a supporter, but I didn’t know who he was as a father, as a brother,” Moll said.

Moll said he was paid “very little,” but found the experience rewarding. “One veteran made me stop the interview because he got choked up,” Moll said. “He said, ‘You cannot deny what that man did. He has three Purple Hearts.’ ”

The film ends with Kerry promising to lead America, and the world, to a safer future.

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