Politics On A Local Scale
Welcome to Bogota, New Jersey, circa 2003. As the weather begins to turn crisp, it’s time for local politics to begin heating up as citizens start to decide who they’re going to vote for in the race for Mayor.
There are plenty of issues fanning the flames. Taxes are too high. Services are too slow. And local sports programs are being threatened. It provides fertile ground for Anytown, USA—a documentary by Juan Dominguez and Kristian Fraga.
The incumbent is Republican Steven Lonegan, a sarcastic man with a tendency to speak his mind even when he shouldn’t. He’s despised by a vocal segment of the local population, primarily for the affront of cutting the budget of the high school football team.
His opponent is Democratic veteran Fred Pesce, coming back from retirement in an attempt to unseat Lonegan. An old-school member of the party machine in New Jersey, he’ll guarantee that there are plenty of folks who aren’t too happy with him as Mayor, either. Despite that, things are shaping up for a close two-candidate race.
Enter wild card Dave Musikant. A local man and former football captain, he’s running as an Independent in a long-shot write-in campaign. And if that’s not complicated enough, he’s also legally blind after surgery to remove a baseball-sized tumor from his brain. His campaign gets a much-needed boost when the former campaign manager for Jesse “The Body” Ventura agrees help.
Anytown, USA covers the entire campaign, from the early planning all the way to election night. Many different aspects of campaigning are shown in a fair amount detail—advertising, lining up volunteers, getting out to meet voters, and more. I found the segment on the battle to get yard signs posted throughout the borough especially entertaining.
It doesn’t necessarily sound all that exciting, but good filmmaking and surprisingly forthcoming commentary from the candidates keep things interesting. You’ll also find a fair amount of dry humor on tap here. This could also be a halfway decent primer for anyone considering running for a local office.
Especially noteworthy in Anytown, USA is excellent use of dramatic tension, often missing in documentary filmmaking. Fraga uses deft storytelling to keep you guessing about the outcome of the election. I admit I was surprised at the ending myself.
I’m sure Anytown, USA won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you list politics among your interests you really should track this one down. It proves to be entertaining, humorous, and educational at the same time. Not a bad combination in a film that provides an up-close look at local politics. Personally, I enjoyed it a great deal.
Anytown, USA isn’t rated by the MPAA, but apart from infrequent language there really isn’t much to be concerned about. This film is available through filmmovement.com.
Courtesy of Film Movement, Michael viewed a promotional screener of Anytown, USA.