“Weiner,” a documentary about the failed New York mayoral bid of kinky ex-congressman Anthony Weiner, was supposed to be trouble for Hillary Clinton. But the filmmaker behind the sexting saga is hoping it’s worse for Donald Trump.
“What we hope people take away is questions about how much the political process today is driven by spectacle and entertainment,” filmmaker and former Weiner aide Josh Kriegman, who grew up in Newton, told the Track. “And you can see that played out in our current presidential cycle in Donald Trump. We expect the film to generate less controversy in terms of Hillary and more in terms of Trump.”
Well, that remains to be seen.
“Weiner” opens May 27 at the Kendall Square Cinema and debuts on Showtime in October — just in time for the presidential election. It focuses on Weiner’s sexting scandal and the ensuing media circus that felled the outspoken congressman with a bright political future.
But the film is not only about Weiner, aka online exhibitionist Carlos Danger, but about his long-suffering wife, Huma Abedin. Huma, as you may know, is Hillary’s closest adviser, confidante, right-hand woman and vice chair of her presidential campaign.
Abedin stood by her man through his humiliation, his resignation from Congress and failed mayoral campaign — and the two are still together. Which, of course, is bound to remind viewers of the similar issues Hillary faced in her own marriage.
But while Bill Clinton has somehow morphed into a kind of elder statesman — as evidenced in the final scene in “Weiner” in which he is shown swearing in Mayor Bill de Blasio — Weiner remains a political punchline. Kriegman said that may be because Weiner was caught with his pants down — literally — on the Internet.
“The act of ‘selfies’ is a relatively new phenomenon,” Kriegman said. “And for a lot of people, it felt weird … it crossed over from bad to deviant behavior.”
And then, of course, there was the sad coincidence of Weiner’s last name. The film actually begins with a quote from media guru Marshall McLuhan: “The name of a man is a crushing blow from which he never recovers.”
“It made for such a perfect confluence of factors for com-edians and headline writers,” Kriegman said. “It certainly was a piece of how it all played out.”
Despite the scandal, the film is fairly sympathetic to Weiner, who started out as a dynamic, outspoken congressman, hailed as a rising star, until he accidentally sent pictures of his naughty bits, meant for one woman (not Huma), to all 47,000 of his Twitter followers.
His hoped-for political redemption — winning the New York mayor’s race — was derailed when it was revealed that Weiner, using the Carlos Danger handle, was caught sexting again, this time with a 22-year-old woman. (Again, not Huma.)
Kriegman and co-filmmaker Elyse Steinberg were given virtually unrestricted access to the candidate and Huma by virtue of the fact that Kriegman was the candidate’s trusted former chief of staff in Congress. But what started out as a story of political redemption — Weiner actually led the polls early on in the mayoral race — became a different tale when the second wave of sexting became public and Weiner began skidding to a humiliating defeat.
And despite the candidate’s best efforts to talk about the issues, the only thing he was asked about was the sexting — culminating in an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who pointedly asked: “What is wrong with you?”
Kriegman said he has offered to show the film to Weiner a number of times since he finished it, but “he hasn’t wanted to see it.”
“He has an open invitation,” he said. “And I think he will want to see it at some point. I’m looking forward to seeing it with him.”
File Under: Weiner Roast.
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