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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 12:09 GMT
Cheriegate film 'a truthful portrait'
Cherie Blair and Carole Caplin
Cherie Blair, left, is close friends with Ms Caplin

Cherie Blair's personal trainer Carole Caplin feels betrayed by a fly-on-the-wall film made during the Cheriegate row and screened this Thursday. Her friend, the film maker Lynn Alleway, disagrees.
For weeks I'd watched my friend Carole Caplin, personal trainer and friend to Cherie Blair, be ripped apart by the Press, in what the tabloids call the Cheriegate Affair.

One night when Carole rang me in tears, I ended up going over to her apartment with my camera, and together with my colleague director Paddy Wivell, moved in for the next ten days in the midst of a story which ultimately I would find difficult to tell.
In a media story which involved themes of friendship and love, loyalty and betrayal, I could not have cast myself into a deeper pit

Lynn Alleway

How do you tell your friend she has a criminal taste in men?

How do you tell her she is risking everything, for the sake of this man?

Especially when as a documentary film maker, the rule is, never to interfere with someone's reality.

A deep pit

In a media story which involved themes of friendship and love, loyalty and betrayal, I could not have cast myself into a deeper pit.

It was late at night on 12 December, on day 13 of the saga, when I turned up at Carole's.

Peter Foster
Conman Peter Foster
I had told her I was coming and bringing my camera, and while the invitation to stay extended over ten days, the potential conflicts were obvious from the start - I went as a friend, but I was also a film maker.

The truth was that while we had spoken on the phone in the weeks beforehand, I had no real idea of what had gone on between her and Peter Foster, the man the newspapers had exposed as a conman of legendary ability.

Life in tatters

I arrived with the assumption that it was surely over between them - that she had come to realise that she was the cynical target of a man who wanted to get close to her friends in high places.

And certainly, I assumed he did not really care for her.

As a friend, I wanted to help her.

Every aspect of her life it seemed to me was in tatters.

But when I arrived, he was there in the flat. I already had Cherie's words about Carole, echoing in my head: "You cannot pick your friend's friends..."

Basic rules

As a film maker, well of course I was intrigued by the public story and the private affair that I was suddenly party to... but I also knew, the first and golden rule of documentary film making: never interfere with the events you see unfolding, do not advise your contributors, do not change the reality that presents itself to you.

You stand back, and you observe.

I went in knowing the risks, and knowing that she might not like the film and that it would inevitably involve me saying or revealing things that they would not like

Lynn Alleway
Those who fail to keep to these basic rules of documentary film making, notoriously, pay the price.

The repercussions of the conflict were obvious: I saw my camera as a weapon against the maelstrom of media and political agendas which were at the centre of the affair.

But potentially I would end up making a film which both Carole and Peter knew from the start, was not going to be a PR film for either of them.

Truth is painful

Ultimately I was invited in as a friend and documentary film maker, in my mind they were not mutually exclusive.

Given the degree of misrepresentation of my friend already in the media, I concluded that even if I had a different story to tell, at least it would be a fair one.

I went in knowing the risks, and knowing that she might not like the film and that it would inevitably involve me saying or revealing things that they would not like.

The truth is in essence, painful.

Now months on and with the film about to be transmitted, it may be difficult for some to see the clarity of that desire to help a friend.

The biggest irony for me has been that ultimately the film is a kinder and more truthful portrait of Carole than I have seen elsewhere.

Not least, it is entirely different from the 13-page feature about Carole in the Mail on Sunday this week, which came about after she herself signed an 80,000 contract with the newspaper to sell her story and begin a weekly column.

The finished film, The Conman, His Lover and the Prime Minister's Wife transmits on BBC One this Thursday.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"Downing Street are brushing aside this documentary"

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