James Canellos ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Executive Movies Editor
Over the past fifty-five years or so media has grown into a crucial factor in the political landscape. In 1960, the first televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon would cement the power of presence and camera charisma. Fast forward to the 2010s, with every news outlet making their own assumptions about the way politicians present themselves. Throw into this spectrum of media, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, a married, passionate, yet scandalous candidate running for mayor in 2013. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Seinberg’s documentary Weiner is a detailed modern take on what is means to be running for office in a day and age where your internet history is the ultimate skeleton in the closet.
Anthony Weiner famously was caught in the middle of a very public sexting scandal in 2011 in which he became a laughing stock and would later resign. Two years later he decided, with the support of his wife Huma Abedin – Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide, the couple would begin to push for Weiner’s election and try to move past his scandals. As the campaign builds momentum, more aspects of Anthony Weiner’s character come into question that add to the changing, unpredictable tides of a political campaign.
The fact that Weiner focuses on such a character who rarely holds back from revealing everything about himself makes this one of the more fascinating documentaries about a politician. The narrow focus on the congressman’s campaign being eclipsed by his text messages overshadows Weiner from being an amazing film. Like the man himself, Weiner tends to fall back into old habits, often by repeating apologies and rebuttals to the press continuously. While it may be adding on to the message of the press choosing to focus on the man’s sexual preferences and not his political agenda, hearing Weiner talk about the reforms he wanted to make could have added to this tragic aspects of this character.
The often funny film escalates how the media craves a scapegoat to unleash a storm of negative publicity on. Weiner is the kind of fly on the wall documentary that should easily draw comparisons to Robert Drew’s Primary. This modern take on the political landscape becomes more of the tragic story then Weiner himself in how the press will focus on one man’s personal dilemmas. One great moment of the film was when a woman from the Bronx screams at the reporters, “We don’t care what he did! We care about what he’s going to do for us, we’re from the Bronx we don’t care about that personal shit.”
Weiner’s incredibly intimate, often uncomfortable and personal moments between congressman and his family and staff remind viewers that behind this deeply flawed man is someone who wants to help his city. The tenacity that Weiner has is his most admirable quality and despite his mistakes, that create the film’s most awkward and memorable moments, it’s a great insight to how a campaign can turn into a circus act.
Kriegman and Seinberg don’t turn this into a propaganda piece on the man, instead shining light on a new era of politics. With Weiner it’s clear that the next generation of politicians will be facing the same amount of backlash due to any digital footprint they leave behind. Weiner is just the beginning of a new wave of political documentaries.
The Independent Film Festival Boston runs through May 4th. Visit iffboston.org for more information.
Overall Grade: A-
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