AIFF: American Gadfly
HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: American Gadfly (Available April 27-28)
When first reading the briefing for this film, I assumed it was the premise for a Seth Rogen comedy: A group of daring teenagers recruit an 89-year old sharp-tongued former U.S. Senator out of his mothball retirement for an underdog bid for President—and soon their campaign hits Twitter warp speed. Hilarity ensues.
But no, American Gadfly is a documentary; a real-life story about a parallel universe, one where honesty and good-humor triumph bank-rolled campaigns and political machinery. Truly: Even though their candidate does not win (spoiler alert, Biden wins), American Gadfly is an uplifting and inspiring documentary, and one that tells an important story about current national politics.
In simply following the main characters—Mike Gravel, a former U.S. Senator from Alaska; and, a trio of high school students from upstate New York—the film has enough content to be compelling; each character is profoundly likeable. Senator Gravel had a formidable career as an outspoken anti-war populist, and an honesty and demeanor that makes Bernie Sanders seem bashful; all underlaid with self-effacing good nature. And, the Gen Z politicos who recruit Gravel to run for president are as kind and smart as they are witty and clever.
But like its main characters, though, American Gadfly is so naturally charming that it is easy to overlook that the documentary is, ultimately, a dark comedy—and, what’s wrong with that, a spoonful of sugar, right? In an era when partisan politics are often preachy in tone, American Gadfly is both surprising and welcome—a voice that is friendly, easy-going and intelligent, yet still manages to address vital shortcoming of national elections, that they favor money and polls over true grassroots campaigns. Certainly, American Gadfly deserves your vote! PB