SXSW Film Review – Running with Beto
Running with Beto
“We gotta run like there is nothing to lose.”
US Congressman Beto O’Rourke ran for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat from the great state of Texas in 2018. Director David Modigliani (Crawford, 61 Bullets) had a personal relationship with Beto and the foresight to think he would run his campaign differently than anyone else before him. What came of Modigliani’s actions as a documentary filmmaker is Running with Beto, a 94-minute glimpse into the extraordinary campaign. Living in Texas, being a Democrat, and having Cruz as your representative, I became aware of Beto much earlier than those living outside the state. His Facebook Live videos became a fixture on my news feed, and you don’t have to follow many politicians to know Beto was different from the beginning.
The documentary starts right before Beto submitted his necessary signatures to become an official candidate for the Senate seat, and it takes the audience to the end, the *spoiler* unfortunate outcome. What sets it apart from other political documentaries before it is the many perspectives of those involved in his campaign, from his family and his staff to three extraordinary volunteers. Beto’s access to the potential voters is unprecedented, as he is determined to travel to all 254 Texas counties and meet as many people as possible, and many of these events are highlighted.
One of the best parts of this documentary is the focus is taken off of Beto and refocused on three volunteers that personify the type of people that got behind him so passionately. Shannon Gay is a tough lady who has thrown her whole heart into the campaign because of Beto’s backing of veterans’ welfare. She shoots from the hip, oftentimes laced with profanity, but her love for Beto’s causes is evident from the start. She wears her heart on her sleeve as well as a Beto temporary tattoo. Amanda Salas is a lesbian Latino living in McAllen who was formerly a card-carrying Republican. She is involved in increasing voter registration firstly and secondly getting the word out about Beto. She is fighting against apathy towards politics in her community. Marcel McClinton is a teenager familiar with gun violence, and banding together with other teens and parents of gun violence, he rallies his own audience. The difference with Marcel is that he is not able to vote and he was not a Beto supporter until he met him in Galveston and had Beto answer some questions important to his cause. These volunteers are a drop in the bucket compared to the enormous amount of Beto backers in Texas.
Considering Beto became a national phenomenon, receiving support and fans from all across the US, the documentary keeps its focus on Texas. His thoughts and positions on many topics are directed toward how they affect Texans. Beto blew up online with his speech about the NFL players kneeling, and that garnered him national attention via popular talk shows. While this is highlighted briefly, it is used more to show how Beto’s beliefs are echoed by many people, and he can eloquently and passionately put those thoughts into a four-minute soundbite that resonates strongly with many people.
The emotions from the reactions at the end of documentary resonate with its audience. These are ordinary people who put their hopes into a person winning an election that they thought may change the course of history in Texas. For too long Texans have been told that this is a red state and no Democrat would win a Senate race. Beto knew he had a chance to beat those odds. Something changed during the 2016 presidential election, and Beto and his supporters took that outcome to heart and decided to change what they could. The speech in front of his supporters on election night and the quiet moments with his family at home afterward demonstrate what kind of person Beto is. He is hitting the ground running, and at the end of the film, the audience feels hopeful about what this man and his family have coming to them in the future. As a bonus, Running with Beto will no doubt inspire people to get involved in their local elections and stand up for what they believe in. Director David Modigliani, his crew, and his subjects have created a wonderful documentary that should not be missed and will uplift your spirits and simultaneously pump yourself up for what is coming next.
Running with Beto premieres May 28, 2019 on HBO.