A politician exposed: Behind the award winning Weiner.
By Kaely Monahan
Sex. Scandal. Politics. The life of Anthony Weiner is now an infamous character in American politics. His sexting scandal brought down the ax on his rising political career in Congress. Two years after the shameful incident he decided to begin again—this time throwing his hat into the ring for the mayor of New York.
Weine" won critical acclaim and Sundance’s U.S. Grand Jury Prize for the documentary genre. It's a well-deserved win. Rarely has a documentary peered into the life of a politician so seamlessly. Some praise must be given to Weiner himself. It was bold of him to allow documentarians nearly unlimited admittance to his life.
Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg were with Weiner for four months during his run for mayor. They captured Weiner at his most candid, illuminated his character so that we could truly see what a complex man he is. There is no judgment in the film, yet what is captured is a rare glimpse into the life of a man who seems to perpetually shoot himself in the foot.
The opportunity to film Weiner's story came about through a cordial acquaintance between Kriegman and Weiner. Kriegman worked for him during his 2005 mayoral campaign. During that time, they got to know each other and talked about the possibility of doing a documentary one day. Things all clicked into place in 2013 when Weiner was running for mayor again.
Yet a question remains: Why did he allow the documentarians to shoot his campaign? The question grew all the more glaring as another sex scandal broke during his mayoral bid.
“It is a question we wondered about ourselves,” Steinberg said.
The film poses the question as well, but she points out that at the end Weiner confesses that he wanted the world to see him for who he is—the real Anthony Weiner. Not the figure dragged through the mud by the media.
“That was our intention as well with the film,” Steinberg said. “He had been just ridiculed and judged and become a caricature.”
She and Kriegman said they wanted to show both the private and the public life of Anthony Weiner. He is both a public figure and a family man. He has good intentions and terrible vices. In effect, he is a tragic hero. And it's impossible to not watch with some horror as he ruins himself all over again.
“Two different stories emerge and that was our hope with telling this film,” Steinberg said. “You also see a very relatable couple. They’re living in New York, raising their kid, and you get a fuller look at them then what was playing out on the cover of the New York Post.”
At the time filming began, no one knew what would happen the filmmakers said. At first, Weiner was soaring in popularity. He had the comeback story—a man redeemed and worthy of a second chance. It looked like he was going to win.
At his side the entire time was Huma.
“She is obviously more quiet than Anthony, but I do think she shares some of his desire of wanting a more fair and complete story told,” Steinberg said.
However, as the film progresses the strain of another scandal, the grinding pace of the campaign, the battles with the media and, perhaps, the presence of the filmmakers wore them both down into raw and reactive individuals. There are moments where you can clearly see Huma change from the strong supportive wife to one who is aghast and humiliated. Though not intrusive, the filmmakers captured the painfully raw moments which make you want to look away. Yet you’re unable to.
Steinberg and Kriegman manage to capture the full reality of Weiner’s demise. We see him at his best and worst. We see him performing and as a husband and father. The film also reveals a man who appears obsessed with his own story, and rightly or wrongly Weiner tries to tell it.
- Kaely Monahan is a entertainment reporter and creator of the film review podcast Popcorn Fan Film Reviews.