“A name of a man is a mind- numbing blow from which he never recovers,” notes a quote from Marshall McLuhan as Weiner, a truly gob-smacking documentary — and Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance — opened at the NZ International Film Festival.
Anthony Weiner ought to know: The former US Congressman’s name became a media punchline in 2011 following a “sexting” scandal which saw Weiner, AKA “Carlos Danger,” publicly tweeting an explicit image of himself. This fly-on-the-wall political documentary picks up two years later, chronicling the disgraced politicians ill-fated 2013 campaign to become Mayor of New York.
Far from relying on news clips for their account of his campaign, filmmakers Josh Kriegman (a former aide of Weiner’s) and Elyse Steinberg were given bafflingly intimate access to their subject — not just during public appearances, but at home with his wife, Huma Abedin (a high powered political operative in her own right), and their young son.
What results is a fascinating, surreal, and often baffling documentary about failure — unremitting, unrelenting, personal, professional, and moral failure. Failure of the sort you rarely get to see in real time because people prone to fail this spectacularly don’t let people film it. Weiner is, simply put, one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.
Edited to perfection, the film has it all: the surreal spectacle of contemporary politics, hysterical media madness, and the mysteries of psychodrama. Watching Weiner is like watching the slow-motion footage of a building collapsing. Cleverly, Kreigman and Steinberg largely stay out of their subjects way, capturing him in the fullness of his vanity, ambition, passion, and self-destructive self-delusion.
Halfway through the film, as if it needed more drama, Weiner’s weakness for self-sabotage saw his campaign caught up in yet another “sexting” scandal. That’s the point at which the film transforms into a saga of uncommon complexity about a flawed hero carrying on against clearly insurmountable odds while he tries his best to explain himself to his outraged supporters, dismayed staff, and distraught wife — all while the camera is running.
Isolated and alone, and left reflecting and regretting, to himself, these scenes see Weiner at his lowest point, with Kreigman finally asking what we’ve all been wondering since the opening sequence: “Why are you letting me film this?”
Running at 97 minutes, Weiner is an amazing documentary — the must-see nonfiction film of the NZ International Film Festival, if not the entire year.
The final Auckland screening of Weiner is Friday the 22nd at 1.30pm. Book tickets here.
You can view Wellington session times here.
- Fascinating Subject
- Unprecedented Access
- Superb Editing