Director: David Modigliani
Release Date: May 23, 2019 (HBO)
“I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, or any place,” says former congressman and now presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke in a viral video of him defending NFL players’ rights to peacefully protest during the national anthem. O’Rourke was on his campaign trail last August, challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, when he was asked for his thoughts on the matter at a town hall in Houston. Documentary filmmaker David Modigliani and his crew captured the moment as they were on the road with O’Rourke to give us a behind the scenes look at the campaign that *spoiler alert* almost unseated Ted Cruz.
As a Democrat running in Texas, O’Rourke was considered a huge underdog. The last Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas was in 1988. Beto’s DIY style of campaigning was unconventional and Running with Beto highlights some of those aspects. He takes no PAC money and is funded on small donations from individual people. We regularly see volunteers taking cash donations in plastic bags, jars or envelopes at local meetings. He also campaigned in all of Texas’s 254 counties as he drives in his truck town to town with his small crew. His integrity is also on display as he decided to run a positive campaign and against the advice of his team, didn’t run any negative ads against Senator Cruz or President Trump. All things that Ted Cruz did not do.
The film primarily features the congressman during his campaign for senate but also follows other activists and volunteers. They each have their own unique backstory that add layers of humor, insight to social issues, and come from different upbringings providing diverse viewpoints. Each volunteer and activist brings an unexpected emotional beat to the story.
Despite already knowing the outcome of the election, Modigliani is able to add narrative tension to the film. Beto’s campaign gradually picks up steam until it eventually catches fire and Modigliani displays this in a way that gives you a sense of hope that he can actually pull off the upset. The end result is ultimately heartbreaking. We see how devastated the volunteers are and get a look at how Beto handles the situation to rally the crowd in his home town of El Paso, Texas.
Running with Beto is a must watch for everyone that is or should be invested in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. It provides a close up behind the scenes look at a real contender for the Presidency of the United States that you won’t get with any of the other candidates. It’s one of the better political documentaries in recent memory and is as unbiased as it can be while following someone as liberal as O’Rourke. Running with Beto hits HBO on MAY 28, 7:00 PM CT and its streaming services the following day.