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SXSW 2021: Kid Candidate Review

Jasmine Stodel’s documentary Kid Candidate follows a 24-year-old man named Hayden Pedigo during his campaign for city council. Clocking in at just over an hour, Kid Candidate offers a detailed look at the day-to-day impact of a broken political system.

Hayden is a husband, a musician, and an experimental filmmaker living in Amarillo, Texas, population 200,000. He stumbles into the world of politics after his Harmony Korine-inspired campaign spoof videos generate some buzz and provide him with a platform to make a difference.

Even though Hayden’s unconventional campaign videos look like they’re ripped out of a sketch comedy show, he takes his work seriously. Amarillo is a town in decline, governed by a group of wealthy self-serving stooges paid for by corporate America. The city approves multi-million-dollar upgrades for a baseball stadium scoreboard as essential community hubs fall into disrepair.

Kid Candidate works as an engaging character study and an insightful examination of city politics. Nobody will confuse Hayden with a charismatic politician like The Candidate’s Bill McKay, but it didn’t take long before I was caught up in his unlikely political journey.

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The doc is at its best when it pulls back from the city council race to check in with Amarillo residents. Stodel does an excellent job conveying how municipal policies directly affect the town’s residents, particularly those in marginalized communities. As Hayden wages his David and Goliath battle against city officials, you truly understand what’s at stake.

Hayden’s sensitive demeanour and willingness to listen to others are both a blessing and a curse. These qualities help him connect and gain traction with his supporters. But that thin skin is a glaring weakness when his job demands that he swims with political sharks.

SXSW runs from March 16–20, 2021. For more SXSW coverage, click here.

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