Dirs: Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg
‘Why are you letting me film this?’ is the question Josh Kriegman asks and then attempts to answer in this interesting documentary film that unexpectedly becomes far more than just a fly-on-the-wall look observation of a troubled political figure and his doomed campaign.
Following disgraced American politician Anthony Weiner as he attempts a political comeback by running for mayor of New York City, we see his campaign and personal life as he struggles to leave his indiscretions in the past.
With hindsight and the added events of the last few months, this went from a documentary a couple of years past the zeitgeist and with limited scope, to being more up-to-date than ever expected and of global interest. I watched it when aired by the BBC last year. The end text referred to summer of 2016 when there were revelations that he had continued with the same behaviour even after the making of the documentary and how his wife immediately announced their separation. If updated again now it would have to include how the charges against him have gone from morally questionable to illegal, with the impact escalating from influencing the end of his mayoral campaign to causing turmoil with a presidential race in its key final weeks.
A few years ago I criticised ‘CitizenFour‘ for being far too under-edited, for me this gets it right. There’s a brilliant exchange in which Anthony Weiner points out to the filmmaker that a fly on the wall doesn’t usually speak, highlighting the way occasional questions do come from behind the camera, left in the edit as required to show how the political ‘skill’ of not actually answering a question is employed. There’s some very effective editing, bringing news and TV coverage into the mix, a few talking heads, even a text exchange, all to illustrate the history and developing situation and media coverage of it. Yet the majority of the momentum comes from the story itself, as things unfold in a way that was unforeseen when the filming commenced, dramatic license doesn’t need to be taken nor any gimmicks to add interest, there’s more than enough.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan of political documentaries, however I do enjoy a good political drama and this story is so engrossing with a fascinating protagonist that it at times feels as far from dry reality as you can get. I expect this will get some follow-up in a few years time even if not by the same filmmakers as the possible impact and ongoing developments will be just as interesting as the events documented here, and it’ll become even more fascinating in that light.
The review on the poster from The Guardian was echoed by Joe Biden, as a ‘gift that keeps on giving’ this may bear repeat viewing over time as it’s a fascinating insight on a powerful marriage pushed to breaking point and the huge impact one man’s indiscretions can have.
‘Weiner’ has been aired on television in some regions including the UK and US, so it may be available for you to watch from catch-up services or from your usual outlets to rent or buy. Nominated for the ‘Best Documentary’ award at the BAFTAs, I have a strong feeling may it may also get nominated in the corresponding category at the Academy Awards, it’s absolutely worth a watch.