Review by Camden Ferrell
Like most presidential elections, the road leading up to it is long as several candidates vie for their party’s nomination. On the trail towards the 2020 election, many candidates were campaigning in order to secure the democratic nomination. One such candidate who might have slipped under your radar was the 89-year-old former senator Mike Gravel. American Gadfly is a documentary that details Gravel’s uniquely Gen-Z campaign with mostly comical effect.
Gravel is a politician who has always been a daring politician, famously reading the notorious Pentagon Papers at a congressional meeting in order to make it public domain. After a failed campaign for the 2008 presidential election, a group of teens convince the retired Gravel to campaign one last time. These kids use their knowledge of younger generations and Gravel’s Twitter account to create a unique and modern campaign that hasn’t been seen at this level before. This is a really interesting subject, and it’s a story that may not have been widely known.
This film marks the first feature length documentary by director Skye Wallin. He demonstrates an above average ability to construct an entertaining narrative that can maintain audience attention. He knows how to balance interviews with archival footage and intercut it tot tell a cohesive story. While it doesn’t give the story the in-depth analysis it warrants, it’s still a great starting point to learn more about this campaign and the effect it has had on the political landscape of America.
While this is a film for all ages and types of people, it must be stated that it will speak specifically to younger generations. While it will appeal to young people with some political knowledge, the movie succeeds in providing a jumping on point for young audiences to learn more. It never acts superior in intellect, and it has the potential to inspire the next generation of activists.
The young teens who run Gravel’s account are described as the influencer’s influencer. They understand they won’t ever succeed against political titans, but they are aware that their efforts are the first step to raising the next generation of politicians that will change the country. The documentary may hit some slow points in its story, but it’s still a highly effective film that simultaneously entertains and has a call to action for Generation Z to become more politically aware and involved.
American Gadfly shows promise in director Skye Wallin, and it’s a story that shows the inherent comedy in its premise. It is far from perfect, but it’s an engaging story that is short, sweet, and great for all ages.
American Gadfly is available on VOD January 4.