‘Kid Candidate’ Doesn’t Have The Steam To Pull Out A Win

by Jonah Desneux on June 28, 2021

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

Available On Demand and Digital July 2

It’s confusing to come of age during today’s political climate. I say that as a 24-year-old who voted for the first time in the 2016 presidential election and now has absolutely no sense of normalcy. It seems that the only thing that everyone has in common with one another is that we’re all pissed off. The political system that was once held in the highest regard is now struggling to conceal the cracks that threaten democracy. The shock of “reality-tv star becoming president” has lost its weight as it is evident that American politics, in general, is essentially one long reality series that has overstayed its welcome but refuses to get canceled. Because of this, it should be no surprise that my generation is already burnt out on overdrawn storylines of corrupt characters getting their way time and time again and are now demanding a reboot. Documentarian Jasmine Stodel, examines the lust for generational change and introduces the world to a compelling new potential lead role in her new film Kid Candidate.

Hayden Pedigo is a 24-year-old experimental musician from the town of Amarillo, Texas. Similar to far too many cities and towns in America, Amarillo is sharply divided by wealth and class. As an unexpected hotspot for banking in the US, Amarillo is split between ultra-wealthy neighborhoods and low-income areas that deal with constant foreclosures and budget cuts. After one of Pedigo’s Harmony Korine-inspired videos where he portrays an awkward would-be politician goes viral, Pedigo chooses to ride the momentum and thrust himself in the state spotlight as he decides to officially run for Amarillo City council in hopes to bring about systemic change. Stodel captures the highs and lows of Pedigo’s unorthodox run for office and illuminates the political youth rebellion that has the potential to take over American politics for many years to come.

Kid Candidate is not an inspirational film. Deriving from the traditional poli-doc style that glamorizes activists behind change to draw in favor to their cause, Kid Candidate grounds itself in the dull nature of reality. I Am Greta, an underrated doc that was lost in the streaming graveyard of 2020, presents Greta Thunberg almost as a hero from a folk story. As the film splashes in moments of “she’s just a kid with the literal weight of the world on her shoulders” the film shines the spotlight on Greta as a larger-than-life figure that allows audiences to emotionally engage and invest in her and the film’s message. Kid Candidate does not aim to spark change in this way. Hayden is not Greta and though he has good intentions he’s a pretty lousy politician. Instead of inspirational aspirations for Hayden and the millions of unsatisfied young adults he represents, the film shies away from the glamour and instead emphasizes the dire situation we’re in where severely underqualified 20-year-olds are far more appealing than political powers already in place. Amarillo and its surrounding county have a committee that selects and funds the campaigns for the inner circle that has had a firm grip on local control longer than Hayden has been alive.

The lack of inspirational motives and emotional connections leaves Kid Candidate as a blank canvas. The filmmakers are too involved for the film to be pure direct cinema but the lack of storytelling aspects results in an exciting concept having its wings clipped. Though Pedigo is influenced by Korine’s minimal absurdity, Stodel is not and her work never finds a place to plant its feet. The film plays it too safe to be rebellious but misses the content needed to be more captivating than it is. The imbalance leaves the film as an interesting concept that ultimately does not pay off because the individuals involved are not as interesting as you’re initially led to believe. When the film owns this about itself, there are genuine moments of reflection, but far too often scenes feel like filler in the already short hour and eight-minute runtime.

The moments of education in Kid Candidate are the film’s greatest strengths. The inside look at backroom Texas politics and the individuals affected draws the biggest engagement the film has to offer. One scene that stands out is the personal anecdotes that come from Amarillo closing its popular public pool and the money that was told wasn’t there to keep it open, is instead spent on a 4 million dollar high-school scoreboard. These are the influences that might seem small to some but have the greatest impact and lasting effects on the community. Stodel does a great job letting voices be heard on this issue and showcasing how these personal issues affect Hayden and his ambitions. What starts as a joke, becomes real through the apparent need of someone looking out for those who do have anyone in office looking out for them.

Kid Candidate was slated to premiere in person at the 2021 SXSW, which would have done wonders with a hot Austin crowd. Out of that environment, though Kid Candidate is the type of film that you don’t mind watching at the time, you might tell your friends an interesting fact you learned from it but exits your thoughts almost as fast as it went.

Jonah Desneux

Jonah Desneux is a recent graduate from the University of Missouri with a BA in Film Studies. It’s baffling that someone who just spent four years writing film paper after film paper would immediately want to write some more, but hey, he must love it! Along with writing about film Jonah enjoys writing and performing sketch comedy in Columbia and Kansas City.


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