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Interview: Marlo Poras, Run Granny Run

August 5th, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

In the documentary Run Granny Run, filmmaker Marlo Poras documents the campaign of Dorris “Granny D.” Haddock, who, at the age of 94, decided to run for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. Granny D.’s political career got its start shortly after the deaths of her husband and her best friend, when, she says, she found a reason to live: her country. She started with a cross-country political walk to call attention to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, and soon found herself in the spotlight when asked to run as the Democratic candidate for a Senate seat, representing her home state. Hulu recently spoke to Poras to learn more about Granny D. and the project. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor, Hulu

Hulu: Can you tell us the story of Granny D.?
Marlo Poras: Granny D., at the time I made Run Granny Run was a 94-year-old hell raiser who ended up becoming the democratic nominee to the U.S. Senate in her home state of New Hampshire in the 2004 election. Run Granny Run follows her through that campaign. But when she was 90 years old, she gained notoriety when she walked across America, from California to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about campaign finance reform. By the time she got to D.C., there were thousands of people to greet her, including numerous high-profile senators and politicians. She was able to bring a groundswell of attention to an issue that was considered pretty deadly at the time.

She’s an incredible woman. She’s now 100 years old — well almost 100. She’s 99 years old and still causing a lot of trouble in New Hampshire, fighting for public funding of elections.

Why did you decide to focus on her campaign for Senate?
I actually didn’t know she was going to run for Senate when I started filming her. In 2004, in the lead-up to the election, she was doing a big voter registration drive. She was crisscrossing the country, focusing on working women and minorities and trying to register them to vote. I thought I was going to make a road trip movie through the eyes of a 94-year-old in a pivotal election, and we’d get to see slices of America through her eyes. I started filming her. I went on a couple of trips, and then she went home to New Hampshire, her home state, for a little while. Out of the blue, the Democratic nominee to the U.S. Senate, his campaign manager, ran off with all the campaign cash. There was this huge scandal, and it was only four months until the election. The Democratic Party was left without a candidate, so Doris offered herself up, and I knew I was on the right road.

It was incredible, it was really, really incredible. You know you’re on the right road when things like that start happening.

How did you approach her? Had she received any other offers from other people wanting to film her?
There had been a couple of short documentaries, and lots of news pieces on her. I just approached her right-hand man, who had walked across the country with her and sort of writes with her, and does a lot of PR with her and stuff. I reached out to him while they were on the road registering voters, and he said, “Sure, why don’t you come and meet us? You can check us out, we can check you out, and we’ll see how it goes.” Luckily, it worked out.

What do you think makes Doris’ story so compelling to the public, to the media, and to voters?
So many things. First of all, for the film, I think she’s an extraordinary character. She’s just fascinating to watch, no matter what age she is. Even if she was 30 or 20 or 50, she would be captivating on screen. She just has that star quality energy to her, and to see that in somebody who’s 90 is too incredible. But you know, if 50 is the new 40, then at 94, Granny D.’s example gives everyone so much time to explore and live out their dreams. I think that’s one thing that’s very powerful about her. And just seeing someone fighting against the liabilities of being human, of old age, and not being incredibly wealthy, somebody who doesn’t necessarily have everything on their side, just picking themselves up and taking whatever they have — as little as it may be — and fighting for something they believe in, yeah.

With all this media attention, Doris even met some celebrities. Can you tell us about that? Did any celebrities pitch in to help with her campaigns and her cause?
She has gotten support from different celebrities before. Senators McCain and Feingold were both very supportive of her when she walked across the country. Pete Seeger, Michael Moore, Arianna Huffington, Woody Harrelson … she has this fantastic story about getting stoned with Woody Harrelson. He got her stoned at the age of 90 for the first time in her life! There’s a whole slew of celebrities who have backed her at one point or another.

Of course, New Hampshire is a big state in terms of the presidential primaries. Since she did have a relationship with McCain during the reform bill, did the candidates pay her a visit during the last election?
Yeah, it was very interesting. Doris ended up supporting Edwards because of his stance on public funding of elections, her big issue. I think she was more excited by Obama. I heard this very funny BBC interview with her as I was driving one day. It was during the New Hampshire primaries, and they started off saying “We’re here with Granny D., this New Hampshire icon, and she supported Edwards.” Then they asked her “Why did you support Edwards?” and she talks about Edwards a little bit, but then she waxed poetic about Obama for 10 minutes, so the piece ended up being all about Obama. But she really went out and campaigned for Edwards. It was very impressive actually, because I’m not sure that the Edwards people actually came to her; I think she went to them. But the Obama people worked really hard to try to get her on board. I think that they made two or three trips to her house to talk her into supporting him and campaigning for him. I think it was a hard decision for her, but because of public funding and what was going on with Obama and his financing, she chose Edwards.

And she’s 99, almost 100 now. What’s she up to these days? Have you kept in touch?
We keep in close touch. I went up to visit her last month. She is fighting for public funding of elections in New Hampshire.

What about you?
Yes, I’m deep in production for a film that takes place in China …that’s all I’ll say for now.

You can find Run Granny Run and other docs featured in Hulu’s Documentaries section. Look for a link to Documentaries at the top of our Movies page.