Winning the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year, and rating a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes (as of this writing) is “Weiner.” Directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, “Weiner” chronicles what was initially aimed to be the thrilling comeback story of junior Congressman Anthony Weiner’s bid for Mayor of New York City in 2013. What followed was anything but. This amazing documentary gives an insider’s view into a talented but personally flawed politician.

Anthony Weiner: a strong politician with a 'sexting' habit

As the film documents, Anthony Weiner is a fascinating politician. As a junior Congressman, Weiner fought tirelessly on behalf of his constituents, including those emergency rescue responders.

Everything was golden, until news broke that Weiner had sent via his public Twitter account sexually explicit photos of himself. This “sexting” scandal forced him to resign from Congress in 2011.

The film opens two years later, as Weiner announces his bid to run for Mayor. His wife, Huma Abedin, who is an aide to Hillary Clinton, stood by Weiner’s side during the scandal and is supportive of this new run. What follows after his announcement surprises all.

Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s incredible access

Co-Directors Kriegman and Steinberg presented their film to a Los Angeles Film Independent audience at LACMA a few days before the film’s May 20 opening. In a Q&A with host Elvis Mitchell, Kriegman explained how the filmmaking duo had such incredible public and behind-the-scenes access to Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma.

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It turns out that Kriegman had worked for Weiner in 2005 during his first run for Mayor and was later his New York Chief of Staff. After leaving politics to make Documentaries, Kriegman and his co-director Steinberg, returned to the Weiner story when it looked like Weiner was going to make a 2013 run for Mayor of New York. Weiner was completely open to the filmmakers having complete access to his campaign and his family for what was thought would be a great comeback tale.

Kriegman was a fan of Weiner’s politics, while Steinberg was somewhat neutral, having only knowledge of the scandalous headlines surrounding Weiner. But they both agreed that they had an intelligent, fiery and complex character in which to center their documentary. Plus, the fact that they both had differing opinions about their subject led to a balanced insider’s view of the maelstrom that swallowed Weiner’s campaign (and personal life).

The production

The documentary opens with the Marshall McLuhan quote, “The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers,” a fitting epithet for Weiner and his sexual scandals.

After the screening, the co-directors explained that it took over a year to sift through the over 400 hours of footage they shot. Editor Eli Despres came up with this very accurate quote that sets the film’s theme.

Yet both “Weiner” and the man are more than just his name. If anything, the film paints a somewhat tragic portrait of a talented politician who genuinely wants to talk about voters’ issues, but sadly cannot get out of the way of his “sexting.” Although he pleads with the media throughout the film to focus on the issues and not his personal failings, we all know it’s just not going to happen. After all, we live in a 24-hour news cycle that has its own addictions – fallen personalities and scandals are the media’s drugs of choice.

 

"Weiner" is 100 minutes and rated R.