Film

Frontrunners


Frontrunners (2008)
★★★★ / ★★★★

This documentary focuses on the students at Stuyvesant High School–the most competitive high school in America–and how they campaigned to be the student body president. What I love about this documentary is its very naturalistic feel. I felt like I was back in high school during the classroom and hallway scenes–none of that “Gossip Girl” glamour and serialized drama that’s all over the CW and MTV nowadays. Since most of the students are very intelligent book-wise (the school’s average SAT score is 1400, if that means anything), I was interested to see how the race would be different to “typical” high schools in the United States. Upon watching this film, I thought it wasn’t really all that different except that the students here are more articulate, even though some of them do not yet know how to correctly use some vocabulary words in a sentence. While there are four candidates, the film focuses on three because one barely put the effort into campaigning. After the primaries were over, the competition got a lot tougher and it was much harder to determine who was going to win. In the first five minutes, I had an idea (more like a bet) on who was going to win but as the film went on, that person’s flaws political-wise became apparent to me to the point where I wasn’t sure if he or she is the right person to lead the student body. I also liked the fact that Caroline Suh, the director, did not shy away when students started talking about the importance of race in the election because the majority of the school is Asian-American (as did my high school). Suh astutely divided the time between the (initially) three bona fide candidates and I felt like I got to know them in some way. Even though the candidates themselves are very flawed, that’s what makes them fascinating to watch. “Frontrunners” and “American Teen” are both documentaries but are very different in many ways. However, if one enjoyed “American Teen,” she will most likely enjoy “Frontrunners.” Ultimately, my favorite theme that this documentary tried to tackle was the idea of hardwork sometimes not being enough to acquire something. To me, the most heartbreaking scene in this film was the reaction of the student who didn’t make it to the final two. That was a prime example of the common conception of America being a land of competition.

2 replies »

  1. I absolutely love the nuts and bolts aspects of political campaigning, and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I watched it during the Bergen International Film Festival last October, as double bill with the made-for-television documentary ‘The Return of the War Room’, which caught up with the Clinton campaign brain trust 16 years after Bill Clinton was elected to his first term, and it was really fascinating to see how some of the vote-getting strategies could actually be used even in high school politics. If I were to mention something I would have liked to see more of, I’d actually say Stuy history. This being a fairly prestigious school, have there been any prominent student body presidents in the past, and what kind of environment is it exactly, that foster student with such supreme confidence in their own abilities.

    I’d love to watch again sometime.

  2. I, too, was interested in the high school’s history. I wanted to know how they screen students (Family background? Entrance scores? Interviews?) in greater depth. I’d like to think it’s those Asians that boost the scores… but hey, I think that’s just my bias. hahaha

Feel free to leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.