Sunday, March 17, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Running with Beto

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Running with Beto
Directed by David Modigliani
Documentary Spotlight

There were a number of high-profile candidates who made history or performed far better than expected in the most recent midterm election. Two of the victors – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar – have already made considerable waves and been the subjects of their own documentaries. Beto O’Rourke may not have been able to defeat Ted Cruz in the race for the Texas Senate, but he captured an incredible following that represents changing times both in Texas and within the country, with no better place to premiere a film about his campaign than in the capital of the state that nearly elected a Democrat for the first time in thirty years.

This film wastes no time in gaining access to its protagonist, starting with Beto in the car as he travels to every county in Texas rather than covering his childhood or history. The film stays with its candidate for nearly its entire runtime, leaving him only to hear from those closest to him, both professionally and personally, and those who invested so much of themselves in trying to get him elected. As he spends every day trying to win over voters and demonstrate how atypically genuine he is a politician, Beto faces attacks from Cruz and President Trump that usually come back to the fact that he doesn’t represent the values of the red state of Texas.

It’s hard to deny that this is an affirming, inspiring documentary, even if the end result is one that didn’t result in the game changer beating his rival. The passion that those who work for him and urge others to consider him is truly infectious, and watching it with an audience that frequently burst into applause at some of the notions and policies Beto expresses definitely enhances the experience. This film paints Beto as authentic, committed to achieving his goals but not too confident to think that he has more to learn or that he shouldn’t be a strong advocate for issues that don’t directly affect him.

In light of Beto’s announcement this week that he is indeed running for president in 2020, this film, slated to premiere on HBO in the spring, will be an excellent campaign boost that can educate voters unfamiliar with him about just who he is. While it’s easy to be taken with Beto and what he represents, this film doesn’t shy away from showing how some view him as ruthlessly efficient, a trait he freely admits to possessing. He has big dreams and big ideas, and his resilience shines through in an incredible way in this exciting and hopeful portrait.


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