SXSW 2019 – Review: RUNNING WITH BETO Is A Relevant Documentary

FIRST IMPRESSION

Although a few scenes are a bit slow, Running with Beto is otherwise a great documentary about a political figure that just become more important.
Directing
Entertainment Value
Technical Merit

Running with Beto is a new documentary film directed by David Modigliani. The movie shows the behind-the-scenes goings on in the 2018 campaign of Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke in the Texas race for U.S. Senate as he attempts to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz. It made its debut at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award in the Documentary Spotlight category.

After the monumental media circus that was the 2016 Presidential election, more and more Americans have become interested and involved in U.S. politics. The 2018 midterm election was in the news more than any midterm that has come before, and as such, we are seeing a new wave of political documentaries coming out following candidates that are doing their part to challenge the status quo.

Beto O’Rourke is likely one of the more well-known names to come out of the 2018 election, and if he isn’t now, he soon will be, as he just announced that he will be running for President in 2020. Even though he (spoiler alert) did not succeed in unseating Senator Ted Cruz, O’Rourke’s story is still extremely interesting and inspiring, as it shows the ways in which everyone can make a difference, even if you may not succeed outright.

Since O’Rourke does not win the election, the film has the luxury of making it more about him as a person than his campaign. A movie about someone who is in office doesn’t always have the ability to go as in-depth because you have to be extremely careful to maintain their image. Although O’Rourke is still a public figure with an image, this image at this point is one of transparency and honesty, which this documentary provides.

The most effective parts of the film are those that evaluate O’Rourke’s family life. The world of politics very much involves the whole family, and the movie does a very good job of showing how his family contributed to his campaign both directly and indirectly. As a result, O’Rourke becomes a much more interesting and sympathetic character.

The only real issue with the film is that its pacing is somewhat inconsistent at times. For the most part, the movie is enjoyable and intense despite the fact that you already know the outcome. However, there are a handful of sequences that do become somewhat redundant as we see the same people doing the same thing over and over again. Perhaps if the film would have shown different people knocking on doors instead of the same two people every time, it would have been more effective.

The film is quite good in technical terms, especially for a documentary that is based on such a recent event. There is a great deal of polish in the movie, both in the cinematography and the editing, and as such, the film is aesthetically interesting. The movie also effectively utilizes certain tactics with the editing to support the film’s political message and elicit a reaction from the audience.

Overall, Running with Beto was a mostly impressive documentary. Apart from a few slow and repetitive scenes, the movie is a pretty captivating portrait of a public figure.

Running with Beto debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival. It debuts on HBO on May 28.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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