Directed by: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg – Starring: Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin and various colourful, political and media figures
The name Anthony Weiner may not strike a chord with everyone this side of the pond, but if I was to mention a sexting scandal that forced a promising young congressman to quit his job, you may recall reading something about it. If I went on to say he attempted a political comeback running for Mayor of New York, but then faced fresh allegations, you would almost certainly have seen or heard some reference to him.
For that is the Anthony Weiner story in a nutshell. His wife, Huma Abedin, is one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides, and he himself was a rising political star, when he sent some rather unfortunate photographs to a woman via Twitter. It was a huge story in the USA, and his 2011 resignation was massively humiliating. So it says a lot about his character that he would see fit to make a comeback running for Mayor of New York in 2013.
Initially the favourite in the race, it was at this point that filmmakers Kriegman and Steinberg got access to him, as they followed his journey. They obviously couldn’t have known that yet more sleazy correspondence would surface that would see him making headlines for all the wrong reasons again, turning their documentary into a whole different film.
What follows is compelling viewing. Weiner soldiers on, believing that his ideas can trump his indiscretions. As his long-suffering wife stands by him, he dogmatically continues with the campaign, even as the woman he messaged, Sydney Leathers, becomes a media darling, and releases a porn video referencing the scandal.
If you didn’t know this was a real documentary, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was some sort of comedy mockumentary, so outlandish (and often hilarious) are the events that unfold. Weiner categorically refuses to back out of the race, and, as such, he finds himself constantly backed into a corner and questioned about the scandal, which he totally brazens out. At no point does he show any remorse, and there is always a sense that he is feeling sorry for himself, rather than for any hurt he has inflicted on others. In a world of 24 hour news coverage, where public figures are micromanaged, he throws etiquette to the wind, arguing with TV hosts and getting belligerent with journalists.
This is a fascinating look at the inner machinations of the political machine, and the arrogance of some of those involved in it. It is also a cautionary tale about how a moment of madness can have a long-reaching, devastating, ripple-effect on a life. It’s impossible to feel sorry for Weiner, but you will feel for his wife and those around him, and will definitely have food for thought after watching this.
In the Lighthouse Cinema and on demand on Volta from July 8th!